DON’T BE CREEPY: TIPS FOR AVOIDING SCOPE CREEP
By Vaclav Vincalek, CIO
Think about the apps you use most on your smartphone: Instagram, Foursquare, etc. You probably only use a small number of features in them and have never bothered to find out what the rest of them do. It’s standard human behavior – but then, if we’re not using most of these features, why do they build them?
It’s scope creep. It’s endemic to app development – and this kind of thing has been hurting companies and consumers for as long as humans have been inventing things and managing projects.
To be fair, the impetus for adding features to products doesn’t come out of nowhere; often, companies that do their proper market research and pay attention to product reviews want to meet a perceived demand. Even if the feature isn’t really part of the core of the product, or it seems like only a small part of the overall market is really interested, the company gives in – because they figure that since they’re already building something, why not add in a few extras that would be “nice to have”, as the reviewers eloquently put it.
Many times, though, we’re dealing with scope creep right out of the gate. The customer starts with a pie-in-the-sky solution that’s going to include everything including the kitchen sink – and naturally, everyone in the world is going to buy it. Our development team comes at it from a more realistic direction: focusing in on where the value really is. In other words, what is the core of your solution?
There’s a simple process for figuring out what’s really important. First, identify the features you say you want in a product. Next, identify the benefit – which of course demands that you understand the difference between features and benefits (eg. “This photo app syncs photos with your account on the cloud; a big benefit is that the user’s honeymoon vacation photos are safe and sound in cyberspace, even if the phone gets stolen”). In other words, the benefit should mean something tangible, not just that it’s “very cool”. Finally, what’s the value of this benefit? Would customers buy your app because of it? Or would they pay more than what they’re shelling out for your existing product? Or does adding this feature actually help your company reduce the cost of doing business, for instance by removing hosting costs?
Name the core features. Quantify the benefits. Verify the value. When you’ve done that, the development team can focus their efforts where they’re needed, completing the project on time and on budget.
Developing the next app that’s going to solve the world’s problems? Let us help you stay on track and avoid scope creep.