Don't just deliver features, develop capabilities

Don't just deliver features, develop capabilities

As a software engineer you should be no stranger to the word feature. You may be part of a feature team working on a user feature in your feature branch implementing a feature toggle, wondering what went wrong in the feature prioritization meeting that lead to this feature creep.

Features aren’t bad and they are in fact the primary way for a product to deliver value and benefits to the user. But features shouldn’t be the only lens you use when developing your product. By shifting your approach from delivering features to developing capabilities, you’ll be able to unlock a lot more from your sprints.

So what is a capability? I consider capability as the fundamental building blocks that makes up a feature. A feature may require a few different capabilities from your product to function. The same set of capabilities could also be packaged as different features to different users.

Start with a niche, then build a network around it

Start with a niche, then build a network around it

If you are building a product, you will undoubtedly had to fight the temptation of adding more features with the risk of delaying it from being shipped on time. I know I had to and quite often, we tend to launch products with more features than we needed.

Logically, the more features our product offers, the more potential customers for it. But when you are launching something new, your biggest hurdle is in marketing and discoverability. 

Features list

To decide if a product is better than the other, we normally compare their features list. But, if the products aren't in the same category, this doesn't work so well. This is why I think comparing the Apple iPad to laptops, iPod Touch or netbooks is pointless and irrelevant. When Apple entered the mobile phone market, they didn't care if their iPhone was lacking in features. Instead, they focused on what they thought was more important to a phone user. The iPhone isn't a phone for everyone but there was enough people that loved it.

After the App Store was added to the iPhone, you started to see the other mobile manufacturers attempting to match this feature by building their own. All of a sudden, the once-lacking-in-feature phone is now the one to beat.

I think the key to building a revolutionary product is to make your competitors' features list irrelevant. Invent your own category and if you succeed, your product's features list will then be the industry standard.