There’s great value in iteration and I’m a strong believer of building towards a minimum viable product, but I also strongly agree with the old adage “you get what you pay for.”
The first time my husband deployed overseas, he asked me to mail him a CD player. Digital music was already on the rise and it was common to find burned CDs with MP3s. It was the modern version of a mixed tape. Despite the iPod’s release a couple years prior, it was still too new and too expensive. MP3 players like Zune did not yet exist and the cheaper ones were just that (cheap) and they weren’t to be trusted. I opted to send him a cheap CD player instead. After all, CD players had been out for years, how could it possibly fail to do its job? I felt that even the cheap ones got the basics accomplished. I was wrong. In the Middle Eastern desert sand storms, the cheap player didn’t stand a chance. I think it lasted 1 week. It’s possible a more expensive one would have suffered the same fate, but since that experience I’ve held onto the old adage that “you get what you pay for.”
What would you willingly pay more for in order to ensure you got a quality product?
If you asked me this in my early twenties, I would have given very practical answers. 1) Sheets. You spend so much of your life in bed so invest in sheets you love. 2) Toilet Paper. Does this need explanation? 3) Condoms. Like I said, I was practical.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve added intangibles to this list. I would pay more for a quality experience. There is a local restaurant my husband and I frequent because the owner occasionally greets customers with hugs. My daughter’s dentist called her after having her teeth pulled just to check in on her because she was so distraught when we left the office. I choose to fly on Southwest when possible because they are fun and friendly and I’m even happier on flights like AeroMexico who still give me free peanuts.
Translate this to the software development world, in which I live and breathe each day and it speaks to the level of quality I expect to give to our partners. While there’s a desire to be scrappy and quick, exploring improvements as we go, there’s also something to be said for process, especially when it proves to be successful time and time again.
I was on a project in 2013 where our partner did not want a project manager as this was seen as an unnecessary overhead cost. Much to our chagrin, we accepted the terms and while our app development was good, the project suffered from the lack of management. Sometimes developers did more email reading and answering than coding. The project timeline, budget and burn down rate were constantly shifting and in question. Our partners felt like they had to do more managing and checking in on status. In short, excluding management was a mistake. Cutting corners on process is always a risk. On this particular project, our partner was relieved when we assigned a project manager to right the ship. “Why didn’t you tell me it was a necessary part of the process?” I think we did, but to his credit, we didn’t enforce it as a non-negotiable part of our partnership.
Recently, I’ve stepped into business development more and more. What I’ve found is that those who don’t value planning and discovery are winging it and I pray for their sanity. Those who don’t embrace user testing, iteration and validation are in for heartbreak when no one engages with their outsourced $10,000 app. I get it. I too, bought the cheap CD player expecting it would suffice. I was hopeful, then disappointed and I did have to pay for another CD player.
It’s hard to recognize the value of intangibles until you have a point of comparison.
There is great value in that quality experience, for you and for your potential audience. There is tremendous value in research, preparation, testing and discovering what it will take to do it right.