Products are never finished, only abandoned.
Business initiatives are a form of art, and project portfolios require gardening...
Business Initiatives are a Form of Art
Leonardo da Vinci once said "Art is never finished, only abandoned."
Whenever we're attempting to develop a new project, refine an existing product, reorganize a department, re-envision the brand (really any business initiative or project), execution requires significant creativity. These sorts of projects, like art, are never finished, only abandoned.
You might be saying "no." If we reorganize the department, the project can be called "done", we can move on. I argue that if you analyze WHY you reorganized, you'll uncover an underlying unachievable ideal. You reorganized the sales department because you wanted to MAXIMIZE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF YOUR SALESFORCE, an initiative that is perpetual.
You redesigned your website in order to IMPROVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. An ideal that cannot ever be fully realized.
Very little project management software supports this worldview, that projects are never finished, only abandoned. So I've been thinking about how software like that might work.
Products are like Fireworks Shows
Products are like fireworks shows. If you put on a good fireworks show, people expect you to do it bigger & better next year. To meet their expectations, you need to plan an escalating annual budget.
Products should be work the same way. If you spent $50k on a product in 2008, plan to spend $75k in 2009, and $100k in 2010. Don't fool yourself into thinking that there was some upfront investment in year 1, and that year 2 can require 1/2 the investment.
Yes you can skimp in year 2. However, your "fireworks" are not going to impress anyone--your audience will see that you cut your budget in 1/2. And YOU FAILED TO MAXIMIZING YOUR INITIAL INVESTMENT.
The metaphor is getting strange, and I know nothing about the real business of fireworks shows, so I move on to a better metaphor...
Project Portfolios Require Gardening
Smart business people are charismatic and results-driven, and sit in leadership & management roles. They tend to generating lots of great ideas. Let's call these "seeds".
They influence the organization to act on many ideas. Let's call these germinating change initiatives "seedlings". Taken individually, the idea was sound, the cost to get it started was low. It was a no-brainer to allocate resources to get started, to test out the idea a bit.
The problem is in aggregate. The resources required to tend the rapidly growing garden greatly surpass the organization capacity.
It's FUN and seems very productive to grow a seed into a seedling. Unfortunately, that's where the problems start...
The Overcrowded, Decaying Garden of Too Many Plants
The problem with many small businesses is that we often plant many seeds, grow many fragile seedlings, and then don't dedicate adequate resources to continue to nurture these seedlings into maturity. Creative executives move on to the "next great idea".
The landscape becomes crowded. And important initiatives of yesterday are temporarily dropped in order to focus on germinating some new idea. Decay sets in. What can we do?
See the Landscape
The software would need to help expose the landscape. What investments has the organization made? What is the state of those investments? Which important initiatives are being underfed? What initiatives should be terminated? Which need to be be pruned or changed?
IS THIS A PROBLEM YOUR BUSINESS FACES?
I'm curious if this is a generally universal problem, or perhaps I've just been exposed to a subset of industry where this problem seems to be most pervasive (web software companies).
Perhaps ERP software covers this off? I've not been exposed to ERP software, nor have I seen anything tailored to Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses (the market segment that I've spent my career focused on.)