Well I thought Part 3 was the end of this series, but something happened last week that sparked another thought that I need to share with you. I had a most interesting client lunch. To my left was the outgoing MLS Chair, to my right was the incoming MLS Chair. What a valuable time we shared as the ideas about what MLS was, is and will be flew across the table. Regarding what MLS is, I’m having lots of discussions with clients lately about Spring (the new thing) that naturally start with their questioning when their current priority list for LIST-IT (the current thing) will be complete. On this matter, Mrs Outgoing said something great.
“We do have things that need to be done, but one of our biggest problems is that our members don’t use half of what the system offers already.” Her point was related to education and the apathy toward improvement of personal skills of the industry in general. Remembering that comment, I am taking the other-side-of-the-coin approach.
Solid Earth’s primary selling point over the years has been that of customization. We’ve successfully marketed ourselves as your MLS’s personal team of developers that will go to great lengths to craft custom-tailored solutions – in almost all cases at no additional cost. It’s been a great way to win customers and maintain healthy relationships and thus lasting contracts. It has also led to something called feature creep. Please take a minute and scan through that article.
Feature creep happens in nearly all software at some point, to some degree. For example, Facebook was just accused of this in September and listening to my competitors and their customers, this is a familiar phenomenon in our industry across the board. Remember your first experience with MS Word? File > New > Start typing. Now open your copy of MS Word and notice the vast array of menu options that you’ve never EVER used. It’s called feature creep.
So, when I heard Mrs Outgoing express her concern that large amounts of current functionality was being ignored, I began to think of this in terms of MLS in 2012. What if all those unused features that we’ve worked so hard to include in our systems were our members’ way of communicating to us (and my client MLS Committees) that everything past some unknown development point was simply unnecessary. In other words, they’re not using X feature not because they don’t know how (or don’t care) but because they don’t need it. It isn’t necessary for them to do business. It isn’t MLS, to stay with our theme.
I could list you more than a few “vital” enhancements added to LIST-IT over the years that are now the dim, unworn corners of the system Mrs Outgoing is referring to. To be fair, I’m sure there are users out there that have immersed themselves in LIST-IT and leveraged every possible advantage it offers. For the average Josephine however, they use LIST-IT to accomplish a few specific tasks, then get out. All software works in this way. For example, you know I’m pretty hot on Spotify these days but I probably only use 50% of it’s total feature set. I listen to music. That’s it. They could add 1,000 other things related to listening to music, but I don’t care. The core is what I want and that alone is worth the $10 per month. Please don’t screw that up.
In the above article, Facebook is being accused of straying from the simple things that make it so great. At some point, unless they stop now, Facebook will cease being what we know as Facebook and become something slightly different. It’ll still do the basic things, but we’ll probably have to wade through some other crap to get there.
So I wonder, at what point has your MLS Leadership crossed over from focusing on the business essential to the business optional and then passed completely into the mundane or downright useless? Feature creep is just going to happen, especially in a client-driven development process, but a common vision and clear communication on that vision can help slow its progress.
Spring is MLS core, but better. Can we avoid feature creep? Nope. Can we build Spring in an environment where we try and avoid it or at least put it off for as long as possible? Yes. We’ll try.