Development Dilemma

“Innovation comes from the producer – not from the customer.”
W. Edwards Deming

As the head of OSS product development, what do you do when facing the following dilemma? Spend 100 man-days developing a highly customised functionality that will only suit a single existing customer or 100 man-days developing road-mapped functionality that caters for new initiatives in the network industry?

Do you think in the short term or long term? Which can you build product “buzz” around? Which will spawn word-of-mouth marketing? Pro-active versus reactive? Servicing an existing customer who is already convinced by your product versus generating leads with new customers.

Most of the vendors that I’ve worked with have chosen the customer-driven development approach and have had their road-map driven by key customers, albeit down a path that diverges from their road-map….if they ever actually had one. I’ve seen situations where responding to customer emergencies has become OSS vendor modus operandi, leaving no resources to work on a roadmap.

There are so many nuances to this dilemma that there is no right answer, but my preference would be to stick to create a roadmap of innovative products that will force a multitude of customers to beat a path to my door.

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