Ship first, Fix later

Is this the new way of doing business ?

In the software & technology industry, we’re witnessing an important pivot and shift towards the “Ship First, Fix Later” approach. Companies design a “good enough” product or service and distribute it, in the hope of getting insights and feedbacks from paying customers, to be able to enhance and tweak the results.

This is something that we can understand, as the first design will be challenged by the real user experience, on a regular basis, depending on a set of different use cases. Use cases that designers and conceptors weren’t able to imagine or assess.

Same goes for identifying bugs and glitches, and even sometimes leading to a global shift to reposition the product. Look at the Internet, first meant as a military weapon-communication-tool which is now more than just an infrastructure. Look at Facebook, launched as a connecting directory and now is the biggest social newtork commercial platform.

Do you remember the iPhone gate with signal reception problems and recently with bending issues ? Take a look, at most recent news : Meerkat & Periscope. The 2 companies launched unfinished products, and made sure to release multiple patches and updates days and weeks after. You can take the example of the gaming industry, where the majority of the gaming community is willing to get unfinished releases that they were waiting for, for too long. And then get rapidly few patches and downloadable updates.

Behavior patterns and consumption habits are meticulously recorded, providing designers and programmers with a huge resources to tweak, fix and enhance their products.

This approach is surely offering many benefits for both sides, but could some time generate frictions and problems.

Pros & Advantages

1- Consumers & Customers get what they want by providing their feedbacks, wishes and desires. Products & services are more aligned to their needs.

2- Users are contributing to the design of their “own” product, they’re voice is heard and taken into account.

3- Companies can take advantage of these feedbacks as Social Media is now representing the new Focus Groups! No more ad-hoc studies and expensive researchs to hear just what executives want to hear.

4- Companies have the possibility to adapt to market fluctuations in a more agile way, as they can be at risk if they wait for “the most completed and advanced product” to be finished.

5- Deployments & Implementations are more flexible and cost less as they can be available in a shorter period. No more ERP frankenstein nightmares.

Cons & Limitations

1- Market will need a lot of education, as customers & consumers aren’t always ready to accept an unfinished product. This will generate some frustrations & frictions. Expectations have to be set accordingly and realisticly.

2- There’s a risk that some features that are useful for a minority of people can disappear as the major demand will be focused on something else more acclaimed.

3- As a company, you need to be ready to take the heat as you will get rough and direct unhappy feedbacks. You need to manage this collective anger in a subtil and flexible way, accepting criticism and most of all, answering by real and effective actions.

4- You’re at risk, as a company, to lower your expectations and quality, as you’re willing to release “less then perfect” products.

5- Competition will take advantage of community feedback and release counter-offensive offers to grab you lost consumers/customers. You need a solid infrastructure to be able to move quickly and address these concerns.

6- You have as a company, to share publicly that your product is probably delivered with flows. It’s like having your wisdom teeth out, either you choose to take them out all in the same time, or you can have them out one at a time.