The "feature factory" concept refers to a technical team tasked with building feature after feature rather than being empowered to solve customer problems. This factory approach is common in sales-driven and founder-driven organizations but is universally reviled by developers and product managers.
There are several problems with the feature factory mindset.
First, customers rarely know what they want or how to describe it. Secondly, the factory mindset implies that any feature request will be accepted and put into the product immediately.
Yet, with a limited pool of technical resources, there are always more feature requests than resources to fulfill them. As a result, product managers and product owners are forced to choose—to build some features and reject others—which invariably irritates customers and their salespeople.
If you’ve ever talked with a developer, you know they don’t want to build features blindly. They are problem solvers. Give them problems to solve.
The creators of the Agile Manifesto were so passionate about building the right product and features that they called it out in the phrase, “customer collaboration over contract negotiation.” That is, solve the problem, don't just deliver on the customer's demands.
Agile teams talk to their customers to determine what problems to solve.
One solution is to reject all feature demands and get explanations of problems to solve. The “problem story” approach ensures that requests are for problems, not features.
Companies with the best outcomes empower their teams to solve problems. The customer (and their salespeople) are almost always wrong about what feature they need. Give your team a problem to solve, and they will amaze you with their ingenuity.
Eliminating the feature factory requires developing skills to get to the root of the problem customers are trying to solve. A win happens when a problem is uncovered that is more meaningful than the feature request.
For product professionals, describe markets and problems in all your business documents. Put problems, not features, on your roadmap. Don’t write epics about features; write epics about problems.
Great product managers focus on problems in every aspect of their work.
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