No doubt scope creep is one of the biggest dangers to any software project. The possibilities to build everything are just too tempting and too often we think perfectionism is a virtue. Before we realize it, we’ve lost focus, got off track, and blown up the project far enough to be in trouble.
The Techcrunch Test (as I call it) originated for me during my work for a social local mobile app. Part of the job was to prioritize features properly and – at least equally important – find the right sizing of each feature. Thanks to iterative and incremental approaches it’s not necessary to be complete and perfect on a feature the first time around. However, cutting down features enough on this first time is often easier said than done. More often than not there were heated discussions about what needs to be done and what can safely be cut out and de-prioritized.
Techcrunch, one of the world’s most popular technology blogs, was one of the publications we were waiting to appear on. We knew we would have achieved something if Techcrunch would have started to write about us. (If you’re working in a different space, you should replace Techcrunch with a publication or authority that matters for you.)
The Techcrunch Test helps getting brought back down to earth whenever you’re tempted to build too much or set wrong priorities. For a feature X – or a part of a feature – ask youself and your team the following question:
If 3 months from now we will have failed and Techcrunch was to write about our failure, would Techcrunch say the following:
“If only they had introduced feature X they would have become successful!”
I promise you, in most cases the answer to this question will be No. And especially if you’re doubting the importance of a feature anyways already, the answer will almost always be No.
It’s that simple. Once you’re at the point of using the Test, pretty much nothing you’re putting into this question will appear important enough to be built afterwards. And there you go: don’t build it. Instead, focus on what really matters, focus on what sets you apart, focus on what is at the core of what you’re trying to achieve, focus on what brings you forward.
Focus on what Techcrunch would praise you for, some day.