Under Pressure and On Time

Title: Under Pressure and On Time
Author: Ed Sullivan
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Microsoft Press; 1 edition (April 4, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN: 073561184

Under defining requirements (p. 143), Ed suggests defining general requirements and then more and more specific sub-requirements. Then, on p. 150, Ed draws a rectangle for categorizing requirements (pp. 148 ­ 151)

Matrix to categorize product features

A go-ahead requirement puts your product ahead of your competitors in the marketplace. A catch-up requirement brings your features in line with those of your competitors.

Backward-looking requirements address issues or problems with previous releases of the software. Forward-looking requirements anticipate the future needs of the customer.

Quadrant 1: You are anticipating future needs and will be the first vendor to provide a solution. These needs might not be well understood or estabhshed; you are breaking new ground, so your risk level is quite high. Because there are so many unknowns, you woet be able to provide a lot of up-front definition. You’ll need to place an emphasis on iterative prototyping. You will need to iterate your designs very quickly, employ real users to test them, and update your requirements before entering a scheduling stage.

Quadrant 2: Your competitors have a set of features that anticipate customer needs and you want to catch up with them. Research their offering, understand what they did right and what they did wrong, and exploit their mistakes. Your risks should be less in this quadrant than they are in quadrant 1 because there is already an existing product to learn from. However, market and customer needs are likely to be changing rapidly, and you’ll need to perform a lot of prototyping of usability and technical designs before formalizing the requirements and establishing a schedule.

Quadrant 3: This just might be one of the best to find yourself indelivering a set of features that will be unique in the industry without the risk of incorrectly anticipating market trends. Because you are working with a well known or established customers, the risks for this type of release are usually associated with correct feature implementation and timely delivery rather than technology innovation.

Quadrant 4: In this tactical release, you’re adding features to a product that your competitor already has shipped. The risk for this release should be relatively small because you are working on features and technology that should already be understood for a market that has already been established. Because this type of release has so little risk, it should not require as much usability testing and prototyping iteration as the others.

Remember, the goal of this exercise is to make sure your requirements will have the commercial impact you desire. Although it’s possible to have a set of requirements that are equally divided among the four quadrants, that is generally not advisable, because you could end up with a release that is lacking a clear vision or focus. It is far better to have the majority of your requirements in one quadrant and supported by fewer requirements in one or two other quadrants.

On research, Ed suggests focusing on the following categories (p. 162):

Market trends and advances: Every three or four years, the market introduces new technological advances. Whether they relate to graphical user interfaces, client/ server development, component object models, or the Internet, you must stay abreast of these fundamental changes and not be left behind as major changes are taking place. Use your research effort to look for, understand, and track major market moves. Don’t get so lost in your own effort that you ignore the greater context around you.

New ideas: New product or technological ideas can come at any time and from anywhere. Sometimes they come from internal sources and other times they come from external ones. Some could be worth millions of dollars and others could be a big waste of time. Your research effort should be skilled at taking these new ideas and quickly separating the good ones from the bad ones.

Competitor innovations and directions: One of the most important areas to focus research on is that of competitor innovations and directions. You need to understand your competitors’ technology, strengths, and weaknesses to compete against them successfully.

When considering a new change, Ed suggests asking the following questions (p. 215):

  • How much revenue will I lose if I don’t do it?
  • How many customers will benefit from this change?
  • Will I miss or put my ship date at risk if I do it?
  • Will I be at a competitive disadvantage if I don’t do it?
  • How much risk will I introduce to the product’s quality if I do it?
  • What is the impact on the usability, the documentation or the build and install procedures?


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One Comment

  1. Crossing the Chasm « Alephnaught & the Null Set
    12:39 pm on May 21st, 2008

    […] keep coming back to this book whenever I need to build a product or new service; between this book, Under Pressure and On Time and The Innovator’s Dilemma, you have a good beginning marketing reading list. The following […]

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