Friday, October 21, 2005

on product feature priorities

I've enjoyed reading postings by Joel Spolsky in the past, but one of his recent articles had me laughing out loud. In Set Your Priorities, Joel talks about the challenge his product team faces in setting priorities for the next release of their flagship software product. He could have simply described the prioritization process they used and why he feels it was effective, but instead grabs and keeps your attention by first describing how not to prioritize. Here is one favourite snippet from his posting:

Custom development is that murky world where a customer tells you what to build, and you say, "are you sure?" and they say yes, and you make an absolutely beautiful spec, and say, "is this what you want?" and they say yes, and you make them sign the spec in indelible ink, nay, blood, and they do, and then you build that thing they signed off on, promptly, precisely and exactly, and they see it and they are horrified and shocked, and you spend the rest of the week reading up on whether your E&O insurance is going to cover the legal fees for the lawsuit you've gotten yourself into or merely the settlement cost. Or, if you're really lucky, the customer will smile wanly and put your code in a drawer and never use it again and never call you back.

I've had the opportunity to be involved in product development for a number of years now, and Joel's posting does a great job of highlighting why product development can be so gosh darned hard. I find his posting funny because it is all true. It's good to see that I'm not alone [grin].

Set Your Priorities [Joel on Software]

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