The Starbucks Effect – Scaling your OSS seems sexy

While we were talking about this permanent shop, which he still hadn’t opened, his attention would often drift to his next shop. And the one after that. And after that. And then building an app to make online ordering easy. And then, becoming the next Starbucks.
Whoa. Hold on, man, I told him. I get it, scaling the business seems sexy. But, I said, that is the entirely wrong thing to think about now. I wouldn’t spend even a second on it. You have a serious challenge in front of you: opening your first real store and getting your first customer (that isn’t a friend or family) in the door.
In getting just one store right, everything is against you. You have to design and build out the physical structure. You have to hire good people to run the shop when you aren’t there. You have to train those people. You have to get the menu right. You have to get the pricing right. You have to get the presentation right. You have to get customer service right. You have to get customers in the door. And then you need to get them to come back
.”
Jason Fried
, here on Signal v Noise.

The exact same concept pervades the OSS market. Scaling your OSS (whether as an operator or as a vendor) seems sexy. The mantra is to automate everything, because that’s where you get the cost-out to support the business case.

The problem is, that’s not where you really get the business case to stand up while you’re standing up (the OSS). You get it from taking the high-volume / high-value transactions and simplifying and/or streamlining them. Then you take those learnings and streamline them some more. Once you have streamlined and know these processes / people / technologies intimately, then it might be time to automate to streamline further. Once the highest volume/value transactions are optimised, then move onto the next highest volume/value variants.

So much effort goes into scaling OSS out in all directions before the basics are mastered. There is a theory that because an OSS can do it, then it should do it. Our OSS can do almost anything, but that doesn’t mean the costs/benefits justify actually doing all those things. And for all those things being developed, the tech debt just keeps climbing.

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