Having an interesting day at the HR Tech Tank event in Toronto meeting with and talking to a talented group of HR Technology Startups that are (mostly, I think anyway), based in Canada.
One of the recurring themes that has come up during the day is the importance of listening to customers/prospects in the design and development process. As a couple of the startup veterans in the group have pointed out, if you run too far down a development path and have not done enough research, prototyping, and received enough detailed feedback from the most likely users of the product, then you place yourself at serious risk of building something that no one (except maybe you) actually wants.
But at the same time, if you do too much listening to customers and prospects and focus on attempting to incorporate all of their feedback, enhancements, and feature requests into an existing product, (and more importantly, into a product that is meant to be fairly tight in scope), then you end up with a more complex product than you had intended, might miss important delivery commitments, and risk not staying true to your initial vision for the product. Probably the very same vision that sold your first employees, investors, and even customers on initially.
It is definitely a fine line to walk for an HR Tech Startup founder and their team, and likely also for more established HR tech providers. It really comes down to having a pretty deep understanding of your product, your team's capability, the completeness of your vision and product, and lastly your philosophy about working with customers.
There are no specific of set rules or answers for sure. Which is why creating and delivering product is really, really hard.
But for customers or prospects it feels or seems much easier, right? Just look for and agree to continue working with only those vendors that continually say 'Yes' to all of your enhancement and new feature requests. After all, you are the customer and the customer is always right. And if your vendor doesn't react as completely as you like, and according to your timeframes then you can simply find some other one that will.
Except for the fact that unless you are the startup's very first customer, then that means that there are others, maybe even thousands of other customers making similar requests of your vendor. And guess what? All of those other customers think their enhancement requests are just as important as yours.
And if the vendor keeps saying 'Yes' to all of, or even most of your (and everyone else's) requests, they will end up with a product that is more a set of collected features and less of an elegant solution to a problem. A solution and vision that was what originally so compelling that you had to have it.
The vendor, especially the startup vendor, HAS to say 'No' sometimes, maybe most of the time.
The challenge for you, the customer, is to learn that 'No' is sometimes, maybe most of the time, the right answer. For both of you.