Jack sits on the other side of the table with a serious face and heavy eyes as he talks about how he has been trying everything under the sun to get management to care about his project. He is raising legitimate complains about his project not getting any love, attention or energy from the organization.
I play around with his product.
Within minutes, I notice that his product has all the ingredients of becoming a successful product and yet it has received very little attention outside the small team working on the product.
I sit there and wonder why no one, other than the development team working on the product seems excited about the product? And then, it dawns on me. The project, dear reader, has lost it's Mojo.
Yes, that Mojo.
The team has been struggling for months now. They are being asked to build feature after feature when any technology savvy layman who might have laid his hand on the product would have told you that the product does not need new features. It needs, packaging, cleaning, simplifying, sophistication on the user interface front, a vibrant community, a free for use business model, adaption and an entire blooming eco-system around the product.
What the product manager aught to have done months ago is blown the whistle and asked the team to stop adding features the day they released their first sprint. They should have stopped the development of new features the moment they had enough features to constitute the soul of the product and they should have focused on adding things which would, in the words in the words of Austin Powers, gives the product it's mojo.
Things that would make the product generate awe or put simply, things that would give the product it's appeal, get the casual website visitor to watch that product video and click the sign-up button. Things that would have got the management excited about the product and got the product the love it deserved.
Every year, I stumble upon countless engineers and startups spending hours, days and months building more features into their products by quietly working in their cubical, while they keep delaying the packaging, simplifying and garnishing of the product for what they call 'future sprints'.
If you are a young and budding startup working on a product or if you are a young and budding product manager pushing your team to build more and more amazing features into the product, here is my humble advice to you:
Work on the soul of the product and get the product an execution that goes justice to the initial vision or the idea of the product.
Once you have done that, stop your development and focus on the garnishing elements which will give the product it's mojo and differentiate it from the other half heartedly baked products out there. Those bigger fonts. classy design. Ajax driven screens and all the sophisticated packaging that you can get for the product.
Once that is done, ship and make just a little bit of noise about what you have shipped. Not a lot, but just enough for a few good mavens to find out what you were working on.
If you have a product with an interesting idea, a brilliant execution, a strong appeal and a few mavens are sold on your product, chances that your product will catch on. A feature here or a feature there does not matter. Now go focus on getting your product a mojo and then ship.
I wish you good luck.