Another quarter has passed, there’s less money, the investors are asking questions, but there was hardly any progress on the product, is this relateable? Either the CEO doesn’t agree on something, or the designer wants to design it differently, or the front-end developer has different ideas. None of these ideas are wrong or right, they are just ideas, opinions. This is where the importance of data-driven decisions is useful.
Software is complex
Software development is also complex, it’s very hard to create software, the level of detail needed is astonishing and it can be very hard to get a project from the planning phase to the first release. In web projects you have a ridiculously high number of browsers, operating systems, and screen sizes in which your product has to work on, this is a lot of work.
I personally believe software is never finished, I don’t mean this as in it’s never ready, I mean it as in, there will always be something to improve. We cannot let ourselves expect to have the project at 100% before the first release, because 100% never happens, the first release can be something like 85%, or even 80% ready.
“I’ve long believed that if you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released too late.” Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO, Facebook
The importance of data driven decisions
Having an idea, whether it comes from the CEO or the sales team, means nothing until there’s data to prove it, take a scientific approach towards building your software. Develop a hypotheses, for example, let’s say the sales team thinks the following: “We think changing the color of this button from gray to red will improve conversions by at least 25%”, however, the CEO thinks changing to blue would have a +30% effect on conversions.
Which one do you choose to build?
It’s common to be paralyzed by such a decision(generally for bigger features, but this is an example), and then you end up building the one the CEO suggested, because he has more power. After it’s built and deployed, it’s done.
Or is it? Is someone measuring how the change affected the users and the revenue? If not, how do we know it was a good decision? The answer is, we don’t. And at the same time we alienated the sales team by not even trying their suggestion, and made them feel like they are not helping shape the product, which is demotivating.
Instead, let’s build both, deploy them both, have all 3 versions of the button online at the same time, 33% of users will see the gray button, 33% will see the blue button, and the other 33% will see the red button, now we measure all three and compare them to each other, and choose the one that performed best, be it more sign-ups, more money, or more users. Decisions will become much easier.
(On the importance of testing) …At any given point in time, there isn’t just one version of Facebook running, there are probably 10,000. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO, Facebook
Bottom line is, it’s hard to come to a final conclusion that makes everyone happy, we need to change how we think about our ideas from wrong/right, to hypotheses, and the data will answer our questions, no one will feel alienated, everyone will be more likely to suggest ideas, and big surprises can come from this.