failure

Roooster Is Shutting Down

It was a long journey for us here at Roooster.

We started working on the idea of a business platform for creative professionals in early 2015. We believed, and still do, that the time has come to present the world with a new method of doing business: where independent professionals are not just Continue reading →

Posted by Samuel Miller in entrepreneurship, 0 comments

How to drive a product through a brick wall

The man who interrupted the speaker was supposedly the responsible adult. It was obvious that he wasn’t satisfied with the presentation and that there was seemingly something wrong with the product plan discussed. What followed during the next half hour was awful in terms of corporate culture. What followed two months later was catastrophic in terms of the product, customer satisfaction and trust.

It was an annual corporate product meeting, where all of the product division heads presented their market trends predictions, roadmaps and the coming shiny new features for the next 12 months.

The current speaker was Y, a division head and a colleague. Y lives, breathes and dreams his gaming product, knows about any movement in the market and knows what players want. But still, the COO wasn’t happy. No matter what Y envisioned, the COO deemed it an amateurish mistake. The claim was simple: You present a plan that is light years away from what our leading competitors do. In this state of things with our current market position, there is only one course of action: Follow the leader.

The market leader that the COO spoke of, was at that time busy launching new features on almost a weekly basis. Our product divisions were not built to produce in such pace, having a very slow moving mammoth using a waterfall methodology that allowed no more than two major releases per year. The plan that Y presented was focusing on internal change to allow more flexibility in the future. That was not enough for the COO. He dedicated the remainder of the meeting to shaming poor Y, yelling every once in a while.

For the rest of us, the meeting was turned into a scene from Game Of Thrones, where everyone attending needs to carefully consider their future if they are about to even sneeze. What puzzled me the most during that outburst, was that the COO referred to two competitors who were not in direct competition: one of them was deployed in a market that our company strategically avoided for legal reasons. The second one was not even in the same gaming business. At that point in time, we were one of the market leaders.

So, after the long monologue of insults, I gathered the nerve and asked meekly: “what happens if you follow the leader to become the leader? Who do you follow then? Do you change philosophy, or forever stay number 2?”

Hard pressed to quickly come up with new features that other companies already had, Y’s division had to deliver. There wasn’t enough time to change their methodology from waterfall to agile and reduce the release cycles. Two months to deliver the major version meant focusing on development and nothing else. It also meant white nights and no vacations for a massive multinational crew.

There is a price to pay when making fundamental changes to a big system in such a short time. You don’t have the time to adapt to a new methodology. You simply do the same old thing, only quicker, skipping a few important steps (code review, QA, proper regression testing, beta cycle) and to achieve the launch target, you probably deprive some people their well deserved sleep, causing more errors along the way.

Y made the release on time. For him, it wasn’t about following the market leader. He didn’t believe in this. It was about following commands. So the release was made and everyone prepared for the post-launch: gather metrics, provide support.

The new features worked quite well. The problem was in other parts of the system. At first, it wasn’t noticed, but soon enough players started to complain about not having their wins recorded. Other players complained about seeing winnings they did not earn and some other glitches were witnessed. A quick analysis revealed that the problems ran deep: the cost of the new features was breaking some of the system’s business logic. Worst of all bad news in the post launch analysis: rollback is not an option.

Panic spread all over: the players were worried about their money deposits, management was in crisis control mode and employees ran all kinds of scenarios to save the day. Eventually it all subsided and then came the reckoning: Y was sacked and so was his product manager. Their expertise, work experience, especially in regards to the latest fiasco, was deemed worthless.

Oddly enough, the feature rich competitor got into legal problems less than a year later. Finances were frozen, executives had to step down and customers couldn’t get access to their funds. All of a sudden it dawned on everyone in the business that customers don’t necessarily want tons of features. What they truly need is reliability, accountability and a damned good customer service.

Posted by Samuel Miller in Blog, 0 comments