Over the past few weeks I’ve been advising a friend and colleague about a software product that he’d like to create. He’s in the enviable position of having a potential customer at his door step that has a need for his product. The problem is that my friend has good vision; he can see what the product can become and gets caught up in the “vision” rather than focusing on the specific needs of the customer. Given his lack of resources, it’s important for him to remain focused and only provide the feature set required by the customer. When we talk, I’ve repeatedly stated the following:
- Stay focused on the problem that’s causing the customer’s pain.
- Don’t write any code at first. Instead, create a slide show that proposes the solution and listen to the customer in order to discover the customer’s specific needs (feature set). At the same time, try to find out if they’re willing to buy rather than simply show interest in the product.
- Don’t over-analyze or over-build the product to suit a “generic” customer (a variation of the “stay focused” theme). The product can be modified to suit other customers later.
I think the advice I've given my friend is pretty good, but unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that I don’t heed my own advice. I haven’t been eating my own dog food. It's like the old saying, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”
When I have a new idea, I’ll often dive right into the technical aspects of implementation without seeking input and feedback from mentors or potential customers. I waste a lot of time on things people may never want or use. I’ll have to change my ways and start listening to the advice I’ve been handing out.