How complete is your product? 50%? 60%?

By Subraya Mallya on 06 February 2012 | Topics - Product Management

I was having this interesting chat with a salesperson today as I was trying to help get him hired to a software company. As we went through all the details of the product he posed this interesting question to me. How complete do you think is the product? 50%? 60%? I had heard this question before posed exactly that way in a startup I had worked in the past – coincidentally also by a sales guy I used to work with.

The question was ambiguous to begin with on a multitude of fronts. Here is why

  • First of, a software product is never complete and attributing a percentage complete to the product is not right. Since all metrics around software product are only valid if they are looked from the point-of-view of value a customer derives. So a 100% complete product from a product manager’s point-of-view might not necessarily mean 100% from the market/customer point of view. So no one can tell with certainty that a product is 60% or 70% complete.
  • Secondly, even if we managed to concoct a percentage complete for a product it is still not accurate because a 100% complete from the point of view of the mom-and-pop shop round the corner might just translate to 50% complete from the medium sized company downtown or 10% complete from the point of view of Fortune 100 company like GE. So it is all relative and misleading.
  • Thirdly, if you are looking for a company that claims to have a product that is 100% complete and still looking for a sales guy, that implies they have missed the boat. They should have built a ramp way before they reached 100% and had a sales force created to capitalize on the increased value delivered by the product. You might be joining this company a bit too late.

Coming back to the original question – how does one answer that question.

A software product should always be measured and rated based on the value it delivers to the customers. Always refer to the value proposition of the product with respect to target market it is looking to serve. So a better answer to the question would be something like

  • we have managed to help 50 customers derive tremendous cost savings that they continue to find the need to use it after 5 years or
  • we have helped customers so much so that 50% of our customers are from referrals.
  • we have been growing 50% year-over-year, which indirectly points to the increasing value delivered to customers and the consequent increased adoption.

That should give enough indication of the viability of the product and convince someone looking to join. %complete for a product is a vanity metric which means nothing.

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