Perfection Paralysis

A major problem with many projects is the quest for perfection. We don’t want to release a software application until it looks perfect, there are no bugs, it’s fast, and the user experience is flawless. And that’s a great ideal for any project. Unfortunately, the quest for perfection invariably adds scope-creep. What was originally deemed a good design is now less than perfect and requires tweaks. The performance is just not fast enough yet, so we’ll tune the servers. An executive decided there is a new piece of required functionality that simply must go in. On and on we go, and the app release is pushed back further and further. Projects can go on for a year or more before being released. Certainly we want solid software applications, but what does this quest for perfection bring us? In the end, very little of value. As release dates get pushed back, the customer begins to lose faith in the abilities of the development team to deliver. Increased time-to-market means we miss opportunities to sell our product. Increased release cycle times make us less responsive to user issues we didn’t see. These problems are among the issues solved by agile development. Frequently releasing code means that users can start getting essential functionality quicker, time-to-market is diminished, and teams can react to changing user requirements quickly. But to get there, we have to determine what the minimum viable product is and accept that things may not be perfect. We need to accept that our initial version will not be the best there is, but that it’s good enough to do what we set out to do. Understandably, this may feel uncomfortable to the perfectionist in us – after all, we want to give our absolute best. We want a product that we can be proud of and that the customer is dying to have. But if we wait, with delay after delay, we run the risk of having the best app that will never be used because someone else beat you to it.

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