"Just ship it'' is the mantra of many software entrepreneurs. In a blaze of action and a race to the finish line, such entrepreneurs push their product to market and put it in customers' hands, as fast as they can. Their mantra--just ship it.
Stargazing startups have embraced the mentality of LinkedIn's co-founder Reid Hoffman who famously wrote,
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.
Other entrepreneurial advisors have revised the statement to make it sound less careless. Nick Saint sums it up as the "iterate fast and release often" philosophy.
Entrepreneurial bibles like The Lean Startup seem to promote this philosophy. Some have taken this philosophy to its logical nadir: "Version 1 sucks, but ship it anyway." Even marketing demigod Seth Godin preaches "Ship lousy stuff, but ship." Other authors dispense with niceties, and blurt it out with as much saltiness as they can muster.
I understand this. I get it.
From my experience in the SaaS industry, I can even sympathize. Businesses want to be profitable. Companies want to grow. Leaders want to thrive. Why not ship it, and welcome the feedback, experience the motivation, and enjoy the cash flow?
It seems like a great idea, completely in keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit and the fail fast ideology.
But I respectfully disagree.
In spite of the perceived advantages, there are massive risks to the just ship it mentality. Here's why.
It focuses on fast, which is not the way to build an enduring company.
Speed is good. But speed can also kill.
Since I've spent my career in the startup space, I recognize the value of moving fast. It's critical to make decisions in split seconds, to shift into new markets instantly, and to develop products at a breakneck speed.
But sometimes, fast is too fast. by focusing on speed we must by necessity not focus as much on creating better solutions.
Did we make it fast? Sure, but are we compromising our company from the start? Probably.
It focuses on profits, which is never the best focus for any business.
Business is designed to be profitable. But should this be the main focus of business? I would argue that it is not. Profit should be a side benefit of focusing on value.
When you focus on value, you'll achieve the two indispensable qualities of a successful company: Profits and value. But if you decide to just ship it, you've shifted your focus to an short-term and shortsighted goal.
You can be profitable, but you don't have to just ship it in order to achieve it.
It neglects customers, which is always a huge mistake.
In the world of Red Bull-fueled all-night coding sessions, it can be easy to forget about someone really important: the customer.
Who is going to be using the product that you just want to ship? The customer. Who's going to be exploring its features? The customer. Who's going to be frustrated with its glitches? The customer. Who's going to be judging your company by the quality you produce? The customer.
Give your customer the best you can. Churning out products for shipping rather than products for customers turns your company into a blind and greedy monster.
It downplays the ability of the team, which reflects poorly on the company.
By contrast, when you focus on the low level goal of shipping it, you may compromise the employee's maximum ability and talent. It's lost, because you didn't give them the time or freedom to showcase their true ability.
Now, not only have you shortchanged the customer, but you've also reduced the value that your team members can deliver. That's a one-two punch against your business. It's hard to recover from blows like that, no matter how many times you iterate and ship again.
It ignores quality, which will prevent you from ever achieving it.
Most developers set out to create a product that solves a problem. Once they have solved the problem by creating a piece software, the product is essentially ready to ship.
Why not ship it? Here's why. According to the "returns on quality" idea explained in TechCrunch, you will benefit more from developing longer (for quality), than you will by shipping earlier.
Author Uzi Shmilovici explains: You "increase in impact you have when you invest more effort into the quality of your product."
Quality requires two main things: time and effort. But the payoff is there--a sweet spot of excellence that will put the mediocre products to shame.
I'm as eager as the next guy to get my product to market. I love the thrill of chasing down deadlines, and the risk of a big release. But I also know that good business demands good behavior. Shipping a half-baked, feature-poor, buggy, and careless piece of work is not good behavior. And it doesn't make good business sense either.
Don't wait too long to ship. But don't ship too soon either.
Do you agree with the just ship it mentality?