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There is No Place like Production

December 30, 2020

Value is such a subjective thing that we will often be wrong, and there is no way around that wrongness. In order to minimise the wrongness and maximise the amount of value that we deliver we need to have a clear understanding of what our users need, how they are using the product, and validate our new value as soon as we can. Without validation we only have assumptions and assumptions can be dangerous.

As a start we can collect some qualitative data to validate some of our assumptions:

  • Customer Satisfaction – is a key measure as it is an indication of the happiness of your users with the features that you currently have in your product.
  • Product Usage – Its key to see just how much of our product is being used by our users. There is no point in trying to add features to areas that are not being used. Features are only valuable if they fulfil some need for users and the business and usage is a key indicator of value.
  • Employee Satisfaction – is another key indicator. If our employees feel that they understand how their work contributes to the overall product vision then they will leverage that focus and understanding towards building a better product.

For additional ways to measuring value to enable improvement and agility check out The Evidence-Based Management Guide

Real-Users create real-feedback

The only way to validate our assumptions is to get our perceived value in front of some subset of real users and gather feedback. I want to also be 100% clear that the term “real-users” does not mean Staging or UAT; it means production. When you ask someone to test something they do not use it in the same way that they would if they were using it for real. Following a test-script is not a real user.

Releasing is the only way to deliver value

Without getting our increment in front of those real-users we also don’t have any value. Its effectively sitting on our shelf in the warehouse and is depreciating. What is the cost of delay for your feature? If you could get this value, this new business feature, into the hands of real users and make their lives easier how much money would you save? You cant save that money until users can actually use that feature.

A financial reason to release early

And speaking of depreciation all of the software that you are creating, these new features, are capital expenditure. Your finance department is able to offset capital expenditure, and indeed often experimental features, against your tax! However, you are only generally allowed to do that once your features are in production. if you can get a smaller capital expenditure into production and start writing it down on a monthly basis early you can compound that write-down by the end of the year. This could be a massive saving for your organisation.

There is no place like production

My favourite quote is from Brian Harry, the product unit manager at Microsoft and technical fellow:

“There is no place like production”

-Brian Harry

No matter how much testing, UX discovery, and UAT, that you do there will always be more things that you discover once you get into production. It is just not possible to simulate a production environment. We are much more likely to be successful and create value by getting the smallest piece of value into production and validating that it is indeed as valuable as we thought.

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