From 500 to 50,000 to 5,000,000 (users, accounts,…)

When developing a new product sometimes the team working on it get the question, or even formulate the question about what should we do if we grow to 50,000 users or to 5,000,000 users? That’s an important question and should always be asked during product development. It’s important not only because it shows how positive the team is about the product being developed, but also because we should not be taken by surprise if this growth actually happens.

However, this growth concern should be a roadblock. The more distant into the future is the scenario being evaluated, the less level of detail in our product development we should have.

In his recent text on Plan for the present and likely future Jeff Lash mentions that:

  • Planning for too far into the future often happens because people are in search of the “perfect” solution. (Surprise — there is never one!) A “good enough” solution might perform well for several months or years; unfortunately, those looking for the “perfect” answer will reject what is “good enough” and insist on a solution that is usually more complicated, more complex, and more expensive.
  • and Jeff points to a good article from 37signals which begins with the following:

  • One of the easiest ways to shoot down good ideas, interesting policies, or worthwhile experiments is by injecting the assumption that whatever you’re doing needs to last forever and ever. Which means that the concept has to scale from 5 people to 5,000 or from 100,000 users to 100 million. That’s a terrible way to get from those 5 people to 5,000 or reach those 100 million users.
  • Planning too far ahead is against agile principles, since there are good chances that the plan will be changed. In lean software development, planning too far ahead would be considered a waste.

    So plan your product for 500 users or accounts or whatever usage measure you use. Have a good plan for when you reach 50,000 users, but implement and revise your plan as you go. And always dream about reaching the 5,000,000 user. Some day you may get there, but always one user at a time.

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