Monday, July 12, 2004

Did you REALLY plan for success?

Most of the computer companies I’ve worked at were busily spending a ton of money, expecting to develop a product that would be used by thousands or millions of people, yielding immense profits. But I’ve observed a quirk of human nature: the managers, programmers, marketing people, in fact almost everyone at these companies ACTED as if they were only trying to achieve a modest success, something that would be bought by hundreds of people.

Anyone who takes the idea of a million customers seriously knows there will be a giant flood of calls to customer service; and yet I never saw anyone even planning how to train the support people who would be needed fast enough. A million customers will find bugs that can hardly be imagined; and yet the developers were always expected to move to new projects before the product shipped. A million customers requires an incredible pipeline for purchases, returns and web page interactions; all of these were informally set up with a “let’s see what happens” attitude.

It’s easy to think of reasons why people might say they wanted a million customers but not try to plan for them. But I just shake my head in disbelief when I realize that almost everyone acted that way.

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