“Myspace went too wide and not deep enough in its product development …. We went with a lot of products that were shallow and not the best product in the world. … [S]peed to market was essential.” Quoting Chris DeWolf in “The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace,” Bloomberg Businessweek, June 27-July 3, 2011.
Similarly, I watched a Fortune 50 company for years insist on aggressive schedules that they never met — not even close — justified by the need to get to market first. The other reason often given for these same undoable schedules was that the “company will not survive if we don’t make it!” Well, they were right, but it was ten years before the damage done by this approach to developing products finally undermined the huge company enough that it was disassembled and sold into separate independent parts. There was plenty of time to get it right, but the culture, just like at Myspace, irrationally argued for speed.
Myspace, which “went with a lot of products that were shallow and not the best products in the world,” got to market before their competitors, but couldn’t hold onto that market. The Fortune 50 company above did on occasion get out a product that no one else had or otherwise was a smash hit, but its emphasis on speed always held it back on quality and made meeting promises of delivery dates an open customer joke.
If we can get there first, great, let’s do it. However, if we get there first (or stumble trying to get there first) but with low quality, it is not obvious that we are going to be viable in the long term. Sometimes the risk we need to take is not that aggressive schedule but instead the risk of putting quality first, which often doesn’t cost any more nor take any more time than putting speed first.
Is quality or speed the higher priority on your projects?