Thanks for checking out the post. Thinking out loud …
I think that feature factories can be very profitable, albeit for a limited amount of time. Does that make them “successful” ? As you point out … it depends on how you measure success. I’ve received a great deal of feedback about this post from engineers. They describe a disconnect between their work, and the actual outcomes it produces. It hits them on a very personal level and causes many people to leave their jobs. Part of this has to do with receiving mixed messages from their company. If the strategy is to create very high barriers to switching and to land a potpourri of customers using feature bloat … then “why don’t we just admit that and be done with it!” So part of the issue is not calling the kettle black, and the impact that has on the teams.
Other companies get lucky, and do a handful of things “right”, and that basically dictates the next decade of their existence … feature factory and all. Hats off to them, or at lest the people who will benefit from that! It still doesn’t detract from the fact that the product development approach lacks rigor and sense. And who is to call it out? The company scales 5x and needs that output … otherwise, why do you have so many people around? No one wants to ask that hard question …. could we achieve 80% of the results with 80% fewer people around?
Take a company in a known domain. There isn’t much mystery. The solution space is well understood. The fitness landscape is well understood. “We just need to execute ….” and build the 1000 features that define a successful product. OK. This is more like construction. But take a step back … why are you in this business? Do you hope to compete on cost? Is this a commodity? Are you making the Nth mousetrap? Those are the questions that need to be asked. What you see instead is product management in NEW domain pushing feature bloat on the product with flimsy rationale. Because MORE is better. And that is a feature factory.