How Overthinking Can Kill Your Project: Embracing an Iterative Software Development Approach and MVP Development Strategy

January 19, 2024

By Jennifer DeLaRosa, Product Manager

Have you ever fallen victim to your own overthinking and spent way too much time on refining minor details in your software development projects? You’re betting your time, money, and heart that your project will be a success, so of course you want it to be the best it can possibly be. That means you have to think through every detail, optimize that workflow until it’s flawless, tweak the interface until the form practically fills itself out. Right?

In software development, this kind of thinking can blow up a budget and wreak havoc with a deployment schedule. “Perfect is the enemy of good,” said Voltaire. A little more recently, Turing Award winner Donald Knuth phrased it this way: “Premature optimization is the root of all evil.” This is why defining your MVP (minimum viable product) is so important. The MVP is the collection of features that meets your product’s goal without going overboard on the uber-automated logic, intensely detailed design, and business rules that do your user’s thinking for them.

For every idea you have, ask yourself: Is this feature essential for achieving my product’s goal? The answer might not seem simple initially. Maybe you have a bone-deep conviction that you have to build validations among these data points so that your user doesn’t enter contradictory data. Generally speaking, this may be a good instinct. It’s equally possible, however, that you’re overengineering something that will cause more problems than it solves after go-live.

In my first tech job, I worked with an inexperienced team on a project that was characterized by just this sort of overthinking. We were building an equipment tracking application for Fire and Emergency Services organizations. The product owner was positive that fire hoses and breathing apparatuses could only face one type of assessment at a time. The development and QA teams spent weeks trying to get the date and time logic right so that no two assessment records could overlap. There were variable status types and optional end date/time fields in play– it was a mess. Hundreds of extra development and testing hours later, we were extremely late in launching the product. In the end, the highly structured business logic proved to be a terrible fit for the end user’s real world scenarios. We fielded endless complaints that the date/time rules made this feature frustratingly unusable.

There is nothing like that sinking feeling in your gut when you realize that you spent so much time and money, even delayed your release, for a feature that actually drives people away from your product. Optimizing for problems that don’t exist yet will drain your resources and possibly provide no benefit to your consumers. To avoid this, a well defined MVP at the beginning of development can save you from the pit of overthinking.

At VAULT, we draw on our vast experience to help you develop for the primary problem you are out to solve, following an iterative software development approach and a solid MVP development strategy. You are inevitably going to have ideas along the way, and our team will assist you with holding each one to the litmus test: Does this feature get the job done in the simplest way? If the answer is anything but a resounding “yes,” then it’s likely not a responsible investment of your resources.

Remember, a good software product iterates over time. Let your MVP loose in the world and see what your users say about it via surveys and their traffic patterns. Then you can optimize to meet their real world needs all while generating revenue from your simple product that efficiently serves its purpose. Embrace the power of an iterative software development approach and a well-thought-out MVP development strategy to ensure your project’s success.

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