4 Considerations to Help Avoid Feature Creep

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

Feature creep or scope creep refers to the excessive addition of new features when developing a product. Generally, the phrase applies to hardware or software, but you may also want to be aware of feature creep when developing other types of products, such as mops or wallets. Feature creep unnecessarily delays product launches, drives up costs, and may even destroy a project. As a developer or designer, it’s critical to avoid this risk.

Focus

Successful products tend to have a core focus or objective. Rather than creating a product that does lots of things marginally well, most successful developers focus on products that do a few things extremely well. For example, QuickMobile, one of the fastest-growing software companies in Canada, focuses exclusively on event marketing apps that engage attendees. Clevest creates solutions for mobile workforces. Both of these companies and many others develop focused products that meet niche needs instead of trying to deliver everything for everybody.

Functionality

Even when you’re focused on a niche market, feature creep can still be an issue. To keep it manageable, every feature should add a specific function or design appeal to your product. As a litmus test, ask yourself whether proposed changes truly meet a need of your client base. If the new feature increases the appeal of the product in another way, you may want to consider how it is likely to affect future sales or product adoption.

Feature Approval Process

To prevent features from spiraling out of control, you may want to implement an approval process. For example, consider limiting the number of people who can propose new features. Then, make sure each proposed feature goes past your financial team to assess how it affects your bottom line. You may also want to run features past a test panel to see how potential consumers feel about the development. Having a process in place with final approval up to you or the project manager can prevent the adoption of unnecessary features.

Schedule

Feature creep threatens to overcomplicate products in ways that could make them inhospitable to the marketplace, and it delays the completion of your project. To keep your project on track, you may want to create a schedule. Your schedule should outline the proposed length of time for every stage of product development, but it should also have some built-in flexibility for necessary changes and unexpected challenges. If you are working with a client, you may want to create a list of features as well as a schedule. Then, have the client sign off on the features so they can’t request any last-minute changes. Your schedule should also clearly differentiate between development and production; once a product goes into production, it shouldn’t be altered except in very rare cases of extenuating circumstances. When developing a product, it’s tempting to add lots of bells or whistles, and clients may ask for new features in the middle of development. If development is allowed to spin out of control, these additions can lead to feature creep. To minimize that risk, the right focus as well as schedules and a feature approval process can be essential.

References & Resources

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