How We Triage Enhancement Requests
Even great ideas for Intuiface aren't always implemented. Here's a look at how we judge the importance and priority of product enhancement requests.
Intuiface has provided an open forum for users to submit enhancement requests since the dawn of time. (It feels that way, anyway.) In the early days it was via a particular subject matter area in our Support Center. That was followed by third-party software dedicated to idea collection. Then, starting in 2016, we migrated this forum to our newly launched User Community, where it has been ever since.
We take these submissions very seriously and have acted on many of the suggestions. But not all of them. In fact, some are quite old. And you've let us know it. Seems our users are watching the Enhancements list as well.
"I suggested this item x years ago!What's the problem? Why are you ignoring it?"
There is no problem. We're not ignoring it. In fact, we have consciously said no. :-) Let me explain.
In an ideal world, we'd have unlimited development resources cranking out super high quality features on a very short timeline. There'd be no need to prioritize anything because there is space available for everything.
We'd set up a FIFO pipeline (first in,first out) of enhancements either submitted by users or identified by our own staff and release them in batches, like money from a printing press.
Good or bad ideas, hard or easy technical hurdles, directly or tangentially relevant for our target markets - none of this would matter because everything could be delivered without prejudice.
The Help Center would be larger than Wikipedia but everybody but more is always better so customers would be thrilled.
Did I lay that on a bit thick? Exaggeration is the greatest thing ever invented by humans. (See what I did? I exaggerated my thoughts about exaggeration.) But seriously, the ideal world is obviously unrealistic - and really, when you think about it, not very ideal.
Let's take that last part first. Is it really ideal for software to do every possible thing under the sun? From the perspective of a software provider like us, the answer - believe it or not - is no. The reason is derived from the importance of adoption simplicity. If software does everything, it becomes immensely difficult for novices to wrap their heads around the basics. In fact, the software looks hard. You're breaking the 80/20 rule. 20% of capabilities deliver 80% of the value. But with an overwhelming list of feature contributing the remaining 80% of capabilities,fighting to deliver the remaining 20% of value.... It's a complexity nightmare.Prospects will walk away. "I just want to do x. This thing is overkill!"
Why is the ideal world unrealistic? Because there is no such thing as unlimited resources, or super fast delivery of six sigma quality code. It just doesn't exist. There is a capacity limit. Development can only do so much. And because it has limits, it has to make choices about what enhancements to add next.
There are winners and there are not-winners. (Let's not say "losers". It's never too late for an enhancement request.)
How We Pick What To Do Next
We have to make choices. Choices need criteria. Here's our criteria:
- Does it align with our mission?
- Does it complement major innovation themes in the pipeline?
- How many users will it positively affect?
- Will our customers appreciate it?
- Will it improve adoption rates by prospects?
- Will it be newsworthy?
- How hard is it to build? Will it fit in with the current work load?
What we need is - as they say in courts of law - a "preponderance of evidence" that Enhancement Request X will satisfy the majority of our criteria. No feature checks every box.
A few things to note:
- Age is not in the list. Doesn't matter if the feature request is 10 days old or 10 years old. If it doesn't satisfy enough criteria, it won't make the roadmap. It's never too late, but some items can continuously slip, losing out to alternatives.
- Even awesome ideas ticking virtually every box can get bumped if the dev effort is complex. Because software development is a zero sum game, putting all the resources on the cool new thing means nothing else is getting done.
- We've got shareholders to please and employees to pay. Delivering capabilities that generate chatter in the industry, simplify adoption, and/or satisfy the needs new or under-penetrated markets are all important for any business.
We are juggling more than 1200 enhancement ideas. The source splits about 85/15 - 85% Intuiface-generated, 15%customer-generated. THE SOURCE DOES NOT MATTER. We don't care where the ideas came from, we just care how well they'll serve the needs of our business.
Here are some examples of user-submitted enhancement requests that made their way into the product, and some that remain in our maybe-one-day list.
- Color Gradients: Our color picker only permitted the selection of solid colors. We thought this sufficient but many of you asked for the ability to apply gradients. This request was in our backlog for quite some time, continually reassessed in light of other product initiatives. Finally, a confluence of events lead to the delivery of this popular feature.
- Auto-Scrolling of Collections: This is coming in the release scheduled for some time before the end of June 2019. (No timing promises, but that's the plan.) Some of our customers have been asking for this for years! Imagine, for example, a carousel that rotates one item at a time simply but checking a couple items in the Properties panel. It took a few years to get here, but the time has arrived!
Still in the backlog:
- Record Audio/Video from a Webcam: A perfectly sensible idea but one that just hasn't yet won the battle of priorities. We continue to consider it in light of our criteria and never give up hope. We may even ask you questions about it, feel things out. But no promises!
- Export Experiences as a PDF: Another submitted idea that has value but can't outflank alternatives. Part of the problem here is there's a lot of complexity buried in the notion. For example, if a given scene depends on animation, what should the screenshot show? There's a risk that no solution will feel satisfactory so we have a lot of scope work to do before worrying about implementation. Scoping also uses up Developer resources. Is this the best use of their time? So far,not really.
Disagree with what we've prioritized and implemented, or what we've deemphasized and denied? Now you see why these are hard decisions and why it's so important for us to consider all decision criteria. We can't make everyone happy. All we can do is work as hard as we can to make the best decision.
In 2018 we shipped more than 600 features and bug fixes as part of 34 product releases. The Intuiface Development Team is kicking its own butt, resulting in a productivity level about which we are super proud. Rest assured that we're doing everything we can to produce the best possible product satisfying the greatest set of customer and business needs.
Never hesitate to submit ideas, pump them up, remind us. We love the feedback and we listen. Know that we take it all quite seriously and never make decisions without extensive thought