Skip to main content

Features vs. Maintenance: A False Dichotomy

In his article, "Push-Me-Pull-You: Reconciling Maintenance And New Releases", Jacques Murphy gives us guidance on when to emphasize maintenance of existing functionality (e.g. bug fixes) versus new product features. I think his treatment of the issue misses the point.

Many companies face this issue. Just about every product has bugs and seemingly marginal usability problems. Yet it can consume a lot of development resources to fix them. Meanwhile, the typical product also is in a marketplace which requires new functionality to compete effectively.

If you are an executive at a company facing this issue, make sure you have a product manager who simply sidesteps it. The important issue for a product manager is not maintenance versus features, it's what the product enables the customer to do.

Bugs prevent a product from meeting its requirements. Missing features prevent a product from satisfying its requirements. Focus on the requirements; ensure that product designers and developers have measurable criteria against which to measure their progress. Leave the decision of whether to fix a bug or implement a feature to them. If it's "better" to fix a bug, it's because it's the most efficient way to make progress towards satisfying the requirements. If it's "better" to implement a feature, it's because it's the most efficient way to make progress towards satisfying the requirements.


Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Stop Validating and Start Falsifying

The product management and startup worlds are buzzing about the importance of "validation". In this entry, I'll explain how this idea originated and why it's leading organizations astray. Why Validate? In lean startup circles, you constantly hear about "validated learning" and "validating" product ideas: The assumption is that you have a great product idea and seek validation from customers before expending vast resources to build and bring it to market. Indeed, it makes sense to transcend conventional approaches to making product decisions . Intuition, sales anecdotes, feature requests from customers, backward industry thinking, and spreadsheets don't form the basis for sound product decisions. Incorporating lean startup concepts , and a more scientific approach to learning markets, is undoubtedly a sounder approach. Moreover, in larger organizations, sometimes further in the product life-cycle, everyone seems to have an opinio

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the