Gold-Plated

Sometimes we put too much work into our projects. Many times we start to gather requirements and then we think of additional work that we can do to make this project amazing. And then as we go on, we think of another thing that we can do because it is a good idea. As we keep on going and adding additional benefits, one of two outcomes occurs. 

  1. We end up way over-budget and over-schedule. We didn’t have the time or money to deliver what we thought would be amazing. The stakeholders and project sponsor usually end up frustrated because they had been promised some amazing functionality, but since you are over-budget and schedule, they don’t receive what they expected. 
  2. We end up with a product that has many features and benefits that are never used. Adding features and benefits beyond what is needed is what we call a gold-plated project. A gold-plated project is a project that we use all of the available resources (time, money, people) and delivers as much as we can in the project: whether it has a business benefit or not. 

A powerful tool to avoid gold-plating is the minimum viable product. This concept, introduced by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup, describes how we should first start by building the minimum useful deliverable. Once the world can begin to interact with what we have created, we can add the features and functionality that they really need. If you are continually listening to your customers and stakeholders, you won’t be tempted to gold-plate something because your stakeholders will tell you when something is too much. Our responsibility is to listen to our stakeholders and have the humility to acknowledge that they know more about what they want than we do. If we help our stakeholders express what they want and then cater directly to their needs, we will end up with satisfied customers. 

There are times when you might present ideas or concepts that your stakeholders had not previously considered. The best way to do this is through a minimum viable product, which demonstrates the new functionality. If the stakeholders like the new features, keep them. If the customers aren’t interested, don’t force the features simply because they seem cool, or others are doing it. 

Don’t gold-plate your projects. Deliver value. Deliver the specific change that you intend to, no more, no less.