Less Mass = More Agility

A quick thought experiment if you work somewhere with an big company mentality…

Would the company be better off with half the product and half the mass? Half the mass means half the maintenance, testing, integration, points-of-failure, management, politics and more. Would this enable development of new features and products (such as mobile apps) twice as fast?

This is particularly relevant when you have to rebuild some systems anyway. (Many sites and apps are redesigned every few years).

Each feature adds mass. What mass can you reasonably maintain while adapting, experimenting and innovating? In a constantly changing environment, adaptation is a necessity, not a luxury.

Maybe it’s like buying jeans. For every new pair throw out an old pair. Each feature should have to fight for it’s existence. For new features, it may be possible to devise a quick cheap experiment (using AB testing) to test their worth.

Take the example of Google. 20% of their time is spent on personal projects as a way to foster innovation. It is also quick to prune it’s features. Google X was axed after one day. Even the mighty Google Wave was axed after a year.

Consider the anti-example of Microsoft. They have massive resources but it took them six years to release Vista after XP. In the meantime they were outflanked by Google and Apple. Similarly, many news sites are being outflanked by Facebook and Twitter.

Be aware that simply throwing more people or money at features rarely works (“The Mythical Man-Month“). So travel light. Use the 80/20 rule. Think jujitsu. Check my previous post for my fav tips and quotes on the subject.

Below are a few warning signs. Do you have…

  • Unnecessary CMS features such as versioning, complex workflow or complex page layouts? Maybe you have security in the application when network security would be simpler?
  • Two systems for galleries when you only need one?
  • Two video platforms where you only need one?
  • Two tracking systems where you only need one?
  • Complex feeds to consume? Maybe partners could be given access to your CMS? Maybe an intern manually entering content is more cost-effective? Maybe the feeds could be limited to text (to avoid the complexities of image resizing, cropping, uploading, etc)
  • Designs for cool drag-and-drop features before you have a simple UI that actually works well?
  • Complex registration for comments when Facebook comments would be as good?
  • Tightly-coupled systems for mailouts, surveys, competitions and data mining
  • Complex site search when google search “site:blah.com” would be far simpler?
  • Lots of partner sites to integrate with? How many of them really drive your business? Do you have a complex page scrape when fragments would be simpler?
  • Peripheral features (e.g. Nemi) that could be simplified (e.g. as an article instead of a custom component)? Or axed.
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