Slow delivery, slow death
As every company becomes a software company, your ability to frequently deliver valuable software becomes indistinguishable from your customer experience.
I would like to tell you a story, which touches upon a whole range of subjects central to the application economy: social media, agile… But more than anything, this story is about the ability to continuously deliver software and updates to ensure an optimal customer experience.
The story begins with a service called Buffer, which I use for sharing on social media. Recently, the service broke, so I took to twitter to see what was up.
I didn’t expect much of a reply and figured the best case was to hear it was a “known issue”. What happened next stunned me. Exactly 13 minutes after my initial tweet:
So, I headed over to my handy browser and gave it a whirl. Sure enough, it was working and I was suitably impressed.
What this does to you as a customer is incredible. So often, companies come across as faceless machines. These days, most don’t even provide a number you can call to talk with a real person. Yet at Buffer, they not only listened, they reacted and solved the problem.
Mary from Buffer didn’t say she’d look into it or that she was waiting on approval from her manager. Why would I care about their organizational structure or internal processes? Either the service I pay for works or it doesn’t―end of story.
Buffer’s ability to address issues this way isn’t due to a well-functioning support team, it is due to a well-functioning organization. It is the singular output of a diverse mesh of players across the company. Making that fix happen was a symphony of care, not a one-off support reply.
The military historically emphasizes chain of command. But for companies in the app economy, what matters most is chain of communication. A healthy company operates as a single unit — focusing on delivering to the customer, not on meeting departmental goals.
You may think your company is pretty agile but consider this principle from the Agile Manifesto:
Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
Consider your company: How often does it release to customers? Once a year? Twice a year? You may have all the agile rituals and decorations (aren’t stand-ups fun?!) but are you living the original intent?
You only win by getting something useful into your customers’ hands. Writing requirements, designing screens, coding stories and testing don’t matter unless a customer is actually using what you worked on. Code sitting in the warehouse may not smell but it definitely spoils.
Buffer solved my problem in 101 minutes. How long would it have taken your organization? Is this level of service something you aspire to? If you can’t get a new product off the dock as fast as customers expect it, how can you expect to compete with someone who does?
Perhaps your industry is slower. Maybe shipping one or two times a year with a few scheduled patches is all customers expect (or want). But what happens when someone comes along shipping every week or every day, even?
You don’t have to be Nostradamus to see the future of that market.