How Much Does A New Feature Cost?

One of the fundamental challenges of product development is understanding the true cost of releasing a new feature. The benefits feel concrete. Shipping feels great. Talking costs is a downer.

Consider …

  1. Opportunity costs across all disciplines
  2. Cost to implement feature (engineering, UX, product)
  3. Cost to implement incremental improvements (engineering, UX, product)
  4. Cost to deliver feature (processing, storage, monitoring)
  5. Cost to train people internally to sell the feature
  6. Cost to train people internally to support the feature
  7. Cost to market the feature to existing customers
  8. Cost to market the feature to new customers
  9. Coordination costs across all teams
  10. Cost to document and train users/customers on new feature
  11. Cost to maintain that extra documentation
  12. Cost to train engineers on more complex codebase
  13. Cost of slower engineering, caused by increased system complexity and maintenance
  14. Cost to hire more resources to account for slower engineering
  15. Cost of reduced flexibility, caused by increased system complexity and maintenance
  16. Cost of maintaining system usability as system broadens
  17. … until the feature reaches end-of-life (unless you retire it)

It turns out that engineering costs are but a small part of the puzzle.

Wow. So I guess it isn’t just a week or two of work! The good news is that you don’t need to cut a check for these things right away. The hard news is that you’ll end up paying in the long run. And many features end up going unused (or rarely used).

So … consider this expanded list of costs the next time you think about tacking on a new feature. Is it still worth it?

Multiple hat-wearer. Prod dev nut. I love wrangling complex problems and answering the why with qual/quant data. @johncutlefish on Twitter.