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Ship it!

By steve - Posted on 17 November 2010

"...the greatest shortage in our society is an instinct to produce. To create solutions and hustle them out the door. To touch the humanity inside and connect to the humans in the marketplace."
— Seth Godin

It isn't great, if it doesn't ship.

What I'm saying is that you can create the most perfect, most beautiful, most artful project, but if you don't ship it, it might as well not exist. Conversely, you can create a broken, ugly, unartful project and ship it and, if it does something helpful, you're a hero.

"Shipping it" is the art of delivering something into the hands to those that can use/experience/love/improve your project.

There are a lot of reasons why projects fail. There are books and books written about that. But I think the single, most important reason that projects fail is that they don't ship. They don't ship early enough and they don't ship often enough...

What typically happens in projects is that they are so ill defined that they can't be done (or they aren't defined at all) or they are so precisely defined that they can't be done (or can't possibly be correct).

To have a successful project, you need to define the project:

  1. Define the vision. What are you trying to create? Paint a clear picture.
  2. Define the key objectives. When will you know that you are done? What are the deliverables? Keep this focused. Put off, but track, anything that is NOT needed to get it to work on day 1.
  3. Define the resources. Who will be responsible for what?Make sure the players are involved and engaged.
  4. Define the purpose. Why are you doing this? Knowing this should help get you through the dark days.
  5. Define the steps. How will you do it? Arrange your dependencies and plan without overdoing it.
  6. Define your change process. How will you incorporate feedback? It is easier to make changes at the start of the project, rather than the end of the project, so make sure you have a process for collecting, evaluating, and prioritizing changes.
  7. Establish your communications process. How will you share information across the team? Lack of information (or overload of information) are project killers.
  8. Set your ship date(s). What will ship and at what point? Setting these dates will give your project clarity and allow you to assign priorities to new features, bug fixes, and your bosses' "great idea I saw in an airline magazine..."

If you can pull that together (ship your plan!), then start implementing.

Your team will have to make decisions along the way about including or excluding features, functions, and wishes. But keep in mind that your key to success will be in getting something usable in front of the real users. If you ship crap, you can destroy your reputation. If you ship something just above crap and have a framework that allows rapid redeployment (without excessive pain for the users), you'll start building your support base of users and start reaping the rewards that you defined in the project's purpose.

Why ship it?

  • Ship it so that you can learn what is important.
  • Ship it so that you can get the benefits.
  • Ship it so that you build your base.
  • Ship it so that you add value.
  • Ship it so that you can go on to the next thing.

Letting things slide will not cut it. Ship it.

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