If you want to be a bad product manager, release all of your features at once. If you have some cool functionality, why would you wait to show it to the world? You need to get as much out as you can right away — if users don’t see everything that you have to offer the first time they use the product, there’s a chance you might lose them. Sure, there may be some features that they don’t care about, but customers will gladly sift through extra functionality to find the few pieces which might be really worthwhile.
If you want to be a good product manager, save some features for later. It’s important to include enough functionality when a product is first released, though there are legitimate reasons to delay the addition of some non-essential features for future releases, including:
- Customers have difficulty processing too many features at once. With new products, it is too easy to get into “feature overload” and make it hard for users to focus on the most important functionality. Extra features may divert attention from the truly differentiating elements of the product, so much so that some customers may get distracted by the less important elements and lose sight of what truly adds value. However, adding new features over time allow users to slowly acclimate themselves to new functionality as it is added.
- Fewer features initially allows you to capture more value later. Some “one hit wonder” products release all of their best functionality on their first release, then fail to follow it up with subsequent improvements. In many cases, this problem could be partially resolved by staging their incremental releases. If all of the truly worthwhile features are in the initial release, it will be a challenge to capture additional value later through price increases or add-on modules. Instead, a slimmed-down Version 1 product with just the essential functionality may be enough to prove the value of the product and garner customer acceptance, paving the way for you to better construct a roadmap which will capture more value from existing customers and target new customer groups. This provides more flexibility for charging for add-on modules or overall price increases as the product is enhanced over time.
- Staging features provides you the ability to adjust new features based on market feedback. There is one certainty in product management — you always know more tomorrow than you did yesterday. What may seem like a great set of features before your initial release may turn out to not necessarily be the case after you launch. By holding some features back initially, you get the benefit of customer feedback. Once users interact with the product, they will be able to provide feedback not only on the features you have, but more importantly the features you do not have. Functionality you maybe previously thought was crucial may turn out to be less important, and innovative ideas which you had never thought of may be suggested by your customer base. Feedback based on real-world experience will allow you to identify new directions and adjust your future roadmap, saving you from potentially releasing less-worthwhile features and allowing you to put energy and effort into more valuable functionality.
As product managers plan enhancements and additional releases, an awareness of potential future features will help establish the foundation for the product roadmap. However, product management is a marathon, not a sprint, and product managers need to look after the long-term success of the product. Instead of trying to release any potentially relevant feature right away, product managers can release a good set of essential functionality first, allowing for quicker time to market. Then, by holding some features back and staging future product releases, product managers can better establish a compelling roadmap to stay ahead of development while also preparing for any changes ahead in the market.