We often say that ideas are a dime a dozen. In tech startups, ideas in the form of cool features can be very costly. They can quickly get in the way of simplicity of a startup’s product or service. This condition is often known as Feature Creep (FC).
FC is a terrible; once it manifests in a team, it spreads like a virus without a cure.
Once the FC is loose in a team, quickly, everyone gets infected fast, and the project becomes sicker by the day. The symptoms of this deadly startup killer are listed below.
Frequent Vomiting of Deadlines
If your team routinely misses internal milestone deadlines, they are most likely infected with the FC virus.
Status Meetings Feels Like Parties
Congratulations, your team has probably lost all resistance to the FC virus. Most serious software development teams don’t get thrilled to attend the status meetings. As most professional developers know that milestone completions often need to be quantified with a laundry list of disclaimers and unavoidable discovery of potential edge cases that their managers often don’t want to hear. However, if your development team is in a party mode during typical status meetings, they are probably enjoying the idea sharing, which is a perfect breeding ground for the FC virus.
Too Much Time Spent on Edge Cases
If your team spends a lot of time discussing the edge features that can affect a small number of users, your project’s immune system is becoming weak. It might become subject to the FC virus soon.
Often edge cases introduce features that are hardly used but takes a lot of time to implement.
How to Cure FC Infection
Unfortunately, I have been the primary catalyst in cultivating this initial trend of the FC virus in most of my startups. I have come to terms with this issue and learning to protect my on-going and future startups from this deadly virus.
Evaluate Financial and Time Cost of Each New Feature (Idea)
No matter what, there will be new ideas from your team and perhaps from you as well. No way to stop producing ideas when you are enjoying the journey of building new products and services.
So let’s apply a simple break that might curb ideas from getting in your way. Institute a cost-per-idea rating model — CPI. If a new idea is introduced, you need everyone involved to identify and estimate the CPI rating on a scale of 0–9.
For example, say you want to inject a new idea into the project in progress. No problem. Figure out how much value the new idea will create per customer in both monetary and satisfaction value.
Then figure out how much it will cost to produce this idea in time and dollar value. Then determine if the new idea will be profitable in a reasonable time frame. Assign a value between 0–9 for the CPI ranking based on how the new idea ranks in terms of real value creation for the project. A low ranking idea should be avoided like the plague.
If you determine that your new idea will have a high CPI ranking — say 8 out of 9, you might consider it in the initial pass. Anything below a rank of 7 should be considered in a future version.
Forget Edge Cases…most of the time!
Edge cases waste a ton of time. If you are building mission-critical software, definitely worry about edge cases. If you are sending your software on a satellite or deploying it on a weapons system or medical devices or the financial sector — worry about edge cases a lot.
Don’t deep dive into edge cases in the initial version of the product.
But if you are building a pilot web application or a smartphone app for consumer use, no matter how much time you spend on edge cases, there will be use cases that you missed, and users will find a way to use or abuse your product or service.
This is the reality for most software that gets published under a reasonably small timeline. As long as change management and change is part of your product’s life-cycle, you will be able to fix and move on from edge issues.