Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dreaded Feature List

We've all seen them: the lists of features. Whether they show up in a backlog, or a test plan, or a competitive matrix, or an RFP, feature lists are everywhere. It's the driving force of software development, in many ways. "How many features have you built?" "When will that feature be ready?" "Does it have X feature?"

There's one big problem with that feature focus, though: it's not what customers actually want.

There are only two times I can think of where a customer actually explicitly cares about features:

  1. When comparing different products (RFP, evaluation, etc)
  2. When they're using the presence or absence of a feature as a proof point in an argument about your product
The rest of the time, they care only that they can solve their problem with your product. Having a "print current inventory" feature is useless. Being able to take a hard copy of the inventory report to the warehouse and scribble all over it while doing a count - that's what the customer actually wants. "Print current inventory" is just a way to get to the actual desire. These stories - tales of things the customer does that involve your software - are the heart and soul of the solution.

So - with the exception of RFPs and bakeoffs - ignore features. Start focusing on the customer and their stories.

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