Procrastination and speculation can do great harm to a business.
Guest post by Barry Wyse, Software Engineering Director, previous senior roles at AOL and Critical Path
In my experience, procrastinating on a decision can lead to a lot pain in the future; whilst hedging bets when faced with two choices can lead to confusion, with the organisation often torn in two. It is far better to make a quick firm decision, the outcome of which can be managed, than to speculate and not decide.
I have been involved in software engineering for many years, and have led many software product organisations. I remember on one occasion the exceptional technical teams of my company came up with two different solutions to a problem - one was innovative but complex, the other more standard and simpler. Both had merits and there was significant overlap in the scope of their solutions to the problem.
Due to the fact that one option could potentially offer a better solution to the higher end market, and the other a better solution to the lower end market, it was decided to go to market with both solutions. However, the significant overlap between both solutions in the middle ground soon led to confusion across sales, marketing, professional services and our customers. Soon we were experiencing customer issues, and on occasion we had the embarrassment of having to replace one product with the other on customer sites.
This conflict led to strife across the organisation, until eventually, with emotions running high, and customers unhappy, it was agreed to stop one of the products - the complex more innovative one as it turns out. This refocussed the organisation on the one solution and confusion was addressed.
The mistake made was that when faced with the decision to choose one product over the other at the initial stages, rather than be definitive we chose to speculate. Rather than make a decision and manage the impact of that decision, we chose to hedge our bets. We learnt the lesson that when you are in the business of providing software to solve customer problems, speculation iundefineds often the wrong choice.