Perfection is the enemy
Right now I’m finishing an infoproduct. It’s a handbook, with audio and flowchart, for software-dependent startup entrepreneurs who don’t have a grip on the “buy vs. build” decision. In short, I’m creating this thing to help you figure out whether you should buy (or download!) some pre-existing software to support your business, or whether you’ll be better off doing a software development project even if you personally can’t get past “Hello World.”
It’s going to be a series, naturally, and the next segments will show you how to get started with that development project if you’ve decided it’s really necessary.
One question I ask along the way is: “Can you get 80% of the desired software functionality by configuring some software that’s already available? I’m going to address that here, assuming a context in which you’re considering using some specific software product, one that already exists, whether it’s commercial or not.
Doing the homework
If you’re even somewhat considering adopting a commercial software application for that market-critical task of yours, take some time first with the vendor’s tech support. Read its online manuals. Scan the forums frequented by fans of the software. Find out if the software can be configured or adapted to accommodate what you’re trying to do. Ask for specifics! Maybe try out the 30-day demo.
But perfection is your enemy. If you can find a way to get 80% of the required features and functionality, by buying something off the proverbial shelf, you should do it. It’s so easy to underestimate the time and expense of custom software development, and it isn’t why you’re in the business you’re in!
I recommend this so strongly that I am seriously telling you: if the purchased software doesn’t exactly match your own procedures, you should change your procedures if you realistically can.
Again: Perfection is your enemy! When you’re running your startup on a shoestring, good enough really does have to be good enough. Take the relatively cheap 80% and work around the 20% that doesn’t do exactly what you might have wanted.
Which reminds me
I’m just about ready to send out a very small number of preview copies of this infoproduct. If you’re thinking of starting a new business and wondering how to address its specific software requirements, or if you’ve recently gone through that process, I would so totally love you to death for trying out this combined audio and workbook. Let me know if it answers your questions, if it gives you confidence, if it lets you know when you need to ask for more help, that sort of thing.
In exchange for your honest and vivid feedback, I’ll send you the finished edition of this installment, for free. Instead of asking you for money for it, I mean.
Drop me an email or leave a comment if this interests you!
January 18, 2010 @ 4:11 pm
Perfection is the enemy, but it’s also a myth. The closer you appear to get to perfection, the more you realize that it’s not possible to reach.
Being real is better than being perfect.
Where I start to disagree: Most canned software available for installation will do far more than you need it to, and it becomes a burden to maintain. So, you need to be careful to select a product that does most of what you need, but doesn’t do a lot you don’t need.
Mark W. Schumann
January 20, 2010 @ 5:37 pm
Very good point. Let me ask you this, though. Have you seen canned software that manages the “too many features” problem adeptly? I imagine, although I’ve never thought about it really, that there should be a way to hide or take away features that you don’t use and only add complexity.
Microsoft kind of took a stab at this with its expanding menus in Office, right? They hid the lesser-used features on menus, but you could get at them by hovering for a long time or hitting a special dropdown thingie. Does that work for you, from a usability standpoint?
Actually, Josh, are you speaking specifically of (your speciality) user experience? Or does it go farther than that?