product is a whole

December 22nd, 2014 Comments Off

unique ability of product people is their imagination that allows them to see the whole product even before any of the parts are built or even designed. that’s what we call product vision.

if you have product vision, you can communicate it, you can rally the troops behind you, you can fundraise, you can architect the solution, you can design and build the product. if you don’t have the vision, you can still do all these things, but you will never end up with any meaningful results.

but let’s go a step further, and claim that ‘a product’ is always a compound of parts, yet it behaves as a separate entity. a product is a whole, that is greater than the sum of its parts. users like or hate the product and their experience with it, not it’s components. that’s why a product with all same or even worse components, but slightly better product marketing, usually wins, because it communicates the vision better, which enables the users to identify with it better.

because the product is a whole it’s really important to communicate the whole. especially while still in the process of building it. when i work on products, be it in my job, or for hobby, if i work alone or with a team, i always try to keep the product at “some stage of completeness”. this means that natural milestones of development could be described as ‘mini mvps’ – functional end-to-end experiences with rough edges are much easier to demo, than polished sub-components.

engineers sometimes complain that this type of simultaneous development is inefficient, because they need to switch contexts a lot. arguably, you loose some engineering speed of parts, but gain significantly in communication and understanding of the whole.

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