Friday, December 14, 2012

Product Management: Speed shows the focus

I am a slow follower when it comes to technology.  I don't go out and get the latest gadget.  I usually wait until it becomes v2, ask around friends, do some research.  When the technology has clear benefit then I jump on board.  By the time I make the decision, I'm usually the last one to join the group.

So it's understandable that I still use my Windows.  I do most of my work on Windows machine that I had for the last 3 years.  My most frequently used applications are

  1. Outlook
  2. Skype
  3. Chrome
  4. IE
  5. PowerPoint
  6. Word
  7. Excel
  8. Windows Explorer
  9. Notepad
When I boot up my laptop, they probably get opened in that order.

Thanks to my years of Windows experience, Alt-Tab and Ctrl-<num> have been programmed into my muscle memory.  When I do context switching, I almost always use Alt-Tab to switch the focus to another application.

Here's what I started to notice.  Often time I switch to another application for a no good reason.  Why?  First it's easy for me to do.  Hitting Alt-Tab with my thumb and ring finger is just as easy as typing a space bar for me.  Secondly I get easily distracted from waiting for application to respond.  Yes, these are interrupts during the interrupts because the first interrupt was not handled fast enough.

Let me give you an example.  I am reading my email on Outlook.  See a reference to an interesting piece of news.  I switch to Chrome with my Alt-Tab combo.  Chrome does not come up right away.  It spins to regain its consciousness.  Clock ticks.  1 second, 2 second, ...  before it gets to 5 second elapsed time, I get impatient.  Boom.  I'm interrupting myself to look at a new email that just came in.

This is incredibly disruptive to my productivity.  When I focus on a task, I need to have my machine help me focus by keeping up with my stream of thought.  When I hit the gas, it has to move.  More the delay, greater the chance will be for me to lose focus and get distracted.

Unlike other users, I also get to see the other side of equation.  

When I work on a product, speed is not the first thing in mind.  There are always dozens of feature requests and ideas to distract me from focusing on core features and speed.  Instead of improving the responsiveness, there is constant pressure to add more features to solve problem for more paying customers.

It's a losing battle.  As features get bloated, the product performance suffers.  Engineering team fixes problems on newly introduced feature for a few customers rather than focusing on improving the performance.  Users like myself gets distracted using the product, and tunes out.

Speed helps you focus.  Product speed shows the focus.

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