The customer is always right, right?

Developing software can be challenging. Customers are unique, with their own needs, demands and hopes for what a solution can do for them.

You would think that adding functionality to meet every customer need would be the recipe for success, yet in the software industry, it has proven to be the road to a certain death.

The more functionality you add to meet the needs of one particular customer, the more unnecessary functionality you risk adding for the rest of your customers. No one likes a system that is bloated with useless features and functionality. Not only does this complicate the usability of the software, it makes your own workflow impossible to perform in an effective matter.

Those of us who have been around for some years remember the earlier version of the Microsoft office suite. I firmly believe that their 1995 version was the best - a perfect balance between functionality, automation, buttons and menus. Nevertheless, as time went by, Microsoft has continued to add new functionality but only a fraction of these ‘brilliant’ features applies to my needs. This has impacted my workflow dramatically, I now spend forever searching for basic functionality – Maybe I should start an online petition to bring back Microsoft Word 1995?!

So it begs the questions, would you stick with the old and saying; ‘The customer is always right?’, or stay true to your original vision and limit your software’s functionality to suit the majority of your customer’s needs? It might seem like a leading question, but by limiting your software to meet the needs of the majority, you must accept that you will lose customers who opt for customised, ad-hoc solutions.

There will always be a battle between sales and development in all software developing organisations. There will always be a deal waiting if we could only offer a small change to the existing software. In fact, the larger the deal, the harder it is to say no to new functionality. However, you must remember, as your company grows so does the pool of existing customers that are affected by bloated changes – And keeping them happy is worth more than one new contract.

One of the most difficult decisions is at what point is your software and service function rich enough? Software development is an ongoing struggle and getting the perfect balance between form and function is arguably one of the most difficult and sought after parts of fast-paced evolving market.