Todd Sedano

Software Engineering, Improv, Craft of Software Development

Building the Wrong Feature or Product

The cost of building a feature or product that does not address user or business needs.

One of the most serious types of waste is building features that no one wants or needs. A more extreme version is building an entire product that no one wants or needs.

We observed two main causes of “building the wrong feature or product”:

  1. Ignoring user desiderata. This includes not doing user research, validation, or testing; ignoring user feedback; and working on low user value features.

  2. Ignoring business desiderata. This includes not involving a business stakeholder; slow stakeholder feedback; and unclear product priorities.

For example, on one team, three engineers spent three years building a system without ever talking to potential users. The delivered system did not fulfill the users’ needs. After spending nine months trying to alter the system to meet user’s needs, management scrapped the project.

Another example involved a startup that wanted to build a healthcare relationship system. During user-centered design, they actively ignored user feedback. After a year of trying to find people who would use the delivered system, they ran out of money.

Techniques for avoiding or reducing this waste, including usability testing and feature validation, are inexpensive compared to the risks involved.

Building the wrong features or products appears related to a specific tension: user versus business needs. In other words, some projects exhibit a tension between satisfying the needs of the users versus the needs of the business. For example, for one mobile application, the marketing organization insisted on including the company news feed. Users did not want the news feed and perceived it as spam, lowering their opinion of the mobile application.

For more details, read this ICSE paper or return to the list software development wastes