The intersection of technology and leadership

Simplicity of Leaving Things Out

Last year, I worked on an in-house application replacing a 3rd party product our client picked. The 3rd party product had numerous problems such as reports that threw “SQL column not found” errors at end users and a clunky interface that required so many clicks to accomplish a single task. More importantly the vendor could not meet new hosting requirements demanded by new geographic legislation. We involved a User Experience designer very early on in the rebuild, focusing on who used the system and what they needed it to do.

In the end, we ended up with a very simple application. We did nothing special from a technical point of view but we fought hard to keep unnecessary features out until we validated how it would be used by end users. I’m glad we did it as well.

Our Product Owner took the Net Promoter Score (NPS) for the original tool. This score is something that apparently Apple rely on heavily for user feedback. The 3rd party tool scored a disappointing -27%. Our Product Owner took the score again a couple of weeks after the release of the new tool. This new tool got an amazing +63% (a 90 point change!).

Our endeavour to keep the application as simple as possible paid off. Users had a much easier time accomplishing what they needed to do instead of clicking all over the place.


  1. -27 -> 63 is 90 point change. Sorry.

    Otherwise, good work.

  2. Good spot. Thanks for that (it’s updated now)

  3. Who was the key person who had to consent to drastically simplify this application? What convinced this person to give that consent? Tell us a story. 🙂

  4. Fortunately the Product Owner was literally the Product Owner (not in a scrum sense, more in a business sense) so he had the authority to change the flow since he managed the people using the application.

    “Rewrites” are never rewrites so we worked with him early on to help shape the idea the replacement system should work to fulfil the key workflows. He didn’t need a lot of convincing since he understood a lot of the problems with the current system and was very value focused. It was a healthy collaborative relationship. One of my most favourite projects because of this too 😉

  5. Funny: I still haven’t seen a story in which lean/agile principles have won over otherwise recalcitrant product owners. instead, the only successes seem to boil down to people who already knew how to act as sensible product owners. I guess finding the right person for thus job is the real bottleneck in that part of the system.

  6. “I still haven’t seen a story in which lean/agile principles have won over otherwise recalcitrant product owners”

    In my experience, I think finding a good product manager (forget the Scrum PO concept) is hard to find. Turning around an inexperienced/harmful P.O. might be doable. Turning them into someone amazing is going to take an effort.

    I think this is regardless of lean/agile principles.

  7. Yes, Pat, so it seems. We can offer techniques for doing the PO work well, but not for thinking like an effective PO.

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