As much as I try not to put to much structure in place and cause headaches when first launching this little thing called Missouri.me there are certain concepts and ideas that work well no matter how large or small your enterprise/product.

The one that I think is of the most value is the idea of having a product roadmap when developing your product, in this case a website. When developing any major site the first thing that you need to understand is that it will never be done, EVER. If you are dealing with people outside the tech world this may be a new concept to them. But if you think that you are going to wait to have every feature you will ever think of before you promote or sell product on your site you will NEVER make it to market because you will run out of money before you make it to revenue.

What we did was developed a phased approach, where phase 1 was based on core features, phase 2 on major core changes (speed, etc), and phase 3 on nice to haves.

Now within each of those phases we had a point by point description of what the feature would do, complexity, etc. Thats all fine and great but what happens next is once everyone involved starts seeing that their features are pushed out to later phases people start wanting to pull things into to phase one. Let me give you an example of this happening. Last year I was consulting for a group of doctors in the area I live in, they were starting a company and had a rather ambitious plan for a product they wanted to create. At one point in the process I stopped them and said ok, next meeting we have one item on the agenda, we are going to build a road map, I told them up front what would happen, they would all list features, they would agree to structure it in phases but then I let them know everyone was going to ask for their feature to be in phase one. So what happened, you can guess, out of all the post its we stuck on the wall (I used them to make a point), a total of 3 out of 50 or so were not in phase one. Hows that for making a visual impact of the problem.

So, how do you fix this, its natural to think your feature or idea is the most important, but you need to take the personal emotion out of it. Numbers work best. For the first few months of development I spent the largest portion of my time managing the expectations and requests from the sales side of what was being created (I was part of the sales side which makes it real interesting). I always laid out that if X feature was added then Y feature would slip and then did my best to show how revenue timelines or amounts would be impacted. So how do you balance when to add features and when to make a change in the road map, prove how many customers or how much more revenue could be added.

At some point you have to put a line in the sand though and say that phase one (launch product) is locked down, if you do not do that you will never get to revenue and your business will fail before it starts. That happened with that group of doctors, they never could get to launch because they wanted EVERYTHING day one. They could not prioritize features that were required vs nice to have.

At the end of the day your product should always be improving and growing, it should never be done, you need to have a plan and realize that you cannot have your developers changing course everyday, nothing will ever get done. Structure your development plan to get the most bang for your development buck and you will be successful.