Product Development and Intelligence

My career in web development started with delivering products, not necessarily expectations. Starting as a lone web developer I've previously made the mistake of trying to put the product specifications before the client needs, focusing on what I can do technically and not what I should be doing to fulfill their requirements. Working at DealerFire has helped me start with the client expectations and work backwards to what we can do to meet them (which is how it probably should be, although this can easily result in a mismatch of perceived value and actual value). Thanks to a recent promotion, I'll be moving up to the next tier of delivery and responsibility - product intelligence.

When you work in a web development environment there is always a limit on what is possible with finite resources. That's something that holds up a lot of beginning developers and companies - getting caught up on the limits of what they currently know. Without full knowledge of current technologies or industry movements, it's easy to fall back on known territory and push clients towards that. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Clients are not paying for web developers to learn new skills but to create a product that meets (and hopefully exceeds) their expectations. For beginner developers and IT companies to turn a profit, they need to have skill on hand that can create that product, even if it means changing and tweaking client expectations.

After hitting a certain threshold of technical capabilities and understanding more options start to become available. As long as the resources are available a web development company can start to experiment with new technologies and either bring in or develop new skill. This is where things start to get real difficult, as nothing is impossible any more. It is real easy at this stage for a project to blow up in scale, exceeding allocated resources and running wildly into the red. This is when a company needs to look to bring a new factor in to run analysis before and after large projects to determine direction... aka start thinking before just reacting.

It's taken me awhile to realize this. I always assumed that the more I understood about the web and different technologies the more I'd be able to contribute to the company. When demands exceeded resources, you either ease the demands (modify expectations) or increase supply (more developers and/or skill!). There is a third option, though. Be smarter about the direction client demands take you and the usage of resources to meet them. A surgeon is just a guy with a knife unless he has a plan and knowledge. An artist is just a painter without a plan (or innate skill) in mind. Without direction and intelligence, a web development company is just a room full of typing monkeys.

While the transition won't be happening until this summer, I'm pretty excited to be DealerFire's new Director of Product Development. While I feel that they already put a lot of thought and planning into their product and features, this is an opportunity within the company to really focus and streamline processes and new releases. This is also the chance for me to understand business practices better and how IT companies, especially ones that are focused on the web, explore new technologies that push themselves and their industry forward. Also, I can't wait to continue moving forward in my understanding of clients and how we can adapt, both as a company and as individual professionals, to meet and exceed expectations.