Yesterday, Paul has given me a link to this article. You all should read it. It is a good account of some of the projects that went astray and have not succeeded commercially. Or so the article says. It provides good insights into some of the pitfalls that software developers and small startups may fall into.
One of the most interesting aspect of the article that I have noticed is the fact that 4 out of the selected 13 failures have had a common theme, directly related to our own new product: Hiringa (in development). Does it mean our product is already doomed to a commercial failure?
- #5, Smart Diary Suite
- #10, Habit Shaper
- #12, Time Tracker
- #13, Screen Rest
I think none of the ideas were wrong or not commercially viable. Some of the projects (like #5) are actually not failures – they just have very slim profit margins. (See also notes on how to measure success below.)
So what is Hiringa? This is a codename for a set of tools designed for life tracking, logging, activity tracking and progress monitoring. Of one’s life. Goals, plans, targets. The ability to reflect on one’s own life, and one’s own life’s changes (intentional or not). Progress. It has been inspiring that many other people have found life hacking aspects useful, to the point worth spending and investing their time and money into it.
So how not to fail? How to make sure that our product reaches and influences the people that are most likely to benefit from it? As suggested in the article, it boils down to the ability to connect with the community and end users, to get to know how exactly is the software being used, and how it fulfills the needs of the end-users. Marketing, market research, and refinement are as much part of the product development lifecycle as the development itself. Appropriate distribution and pricing models are large part of it too. Something truly useful and cheap/free will spread on its own. Something semi-useful may need help from organised marketing campaigns. Or perhaps, if your product is not that useful that’s the uphill battle to be avoided all together?
The actual meaning of “success” is not defined in the article mentioned above. It is rather assumed, that success is measured in the profit being made. Large profit – large success. No profit – no success. This is probably typical to the western philosophy and goes well with materialism and consumerism.
What about a different definition. Perhaps the success is not the amount of profit one can make on a product, but rather the ability to identify of how the reality can be influenced. What about success being invariant (or orthogonal) to the profitability. Majority of brightest, smartest and most influential scientists, artists, and people never directly profited from their own work, yet, they were successful in influencing, permanently, the largest amount of people. But they have succeeded. I think the success is rather to be measured by the ability to identify and carry on to the end something that can permanently change the reality around us, and has the ability to influence the largest amount of people, for the longest period of time.
The profitability is just a side-effect, that may, or may not be related to the actual ability to change the reality. “Do well by doing good.” If there is a military conflict and one provides weapons to both sides of the conflict and makes huge amount of money – this is not success. If people can be made addicted to a substance, and you provide them with this substance, and gain large financial gains – this is not success. If one is already addicted and you just feed that addiction (being it chemical substance, or mere consumerism), this is not success. This is just a skilled milking of the existing reality, and inequalities that exist in it. Success is something much more than this. Success required inventiveness of going
Can the term success be redefined to provide a universally meaningful measure of a project delivery and impact it has on people and their quality of life?