Dear Product Manager, you don't need more features

Ope Adeoye 6 minute read

"Our product is going to kick ass because we have more features!"

"If you give me more features, I can increase revenue"

"Let's match competitors feature for feature. Then, add more."

Every time I hear or read a variant of that, I cringe. I'm hoping most PMs know already that more features is not exactly a competitive advantage but they often struggle to convince their stakeholders. Here are a bunch of arguments that can be used to attempt to convince people. Or at least (since convincing people is hard) reinforce for yourself that you are doing the right thing when you ignore those calls for more features.

Actual users of the product don't want need them

Let's play a little game... How many of the features that Facebook has, have you used this week? Have you clicked on the "shops" link in Facebook this week? When last did you double-click anywhere to start typing in Microsoft Word? 

I read about a study somewhere that said about 80% of users of any piece of technology only use 20% of the capabilities available to them. I do believe this.

More features = more bugs.

And things that don't quite work the way they should work. That chips away pieces from your customers' trust in your total offering. If you told me your app can sing and dance, then it ends up not dancing very well but sings like a canary, I will likely conclude your app is 50% good. If you had taken out dancing, your app would be tilting towards 100% good from my perspective. Your total offering is watered down by more features that introduce more issues. Every person who builds technical products will tell you that the more lines of code you have to write, the more "lines of bugs" you introduce. Just a fact of life.

Don't distract the customer

There was something the customer was looking for that made her try your product. Just do that one VERY well. If your customers bought a dancing app, but you also threw singing in the mix, you may end up using your singing to distract the guy. It's a risk that may add to the cognitive load to using your app for it's primary function.

These features probably won't move the needle

I saved by biggest argument for last.

If you have taken the care to first establish the key metrics that drive your product towards its nirvana (daily logins, number of transactions, pieces content published, number of connections, revenue per user, etc.), if you look closely at your data, you'd find that there are some parts of the customer engagement funnel where the customer is falling off from driving whatever your number one true goal is. 

Here's an example: Lately I have been looking at performance of some bank apps. I realised that users who manage to finally activate the app (activation means various things to various banks - e.g. visit the bank to get login credentials), often use it very aggressively. But while the bank is tempted to ask for more features, there's been a struggle to convince the bank to add one single feature to make activation instant. So we ran the numbers for one bank: if activation is improved by just 25%, revenue would double! It became a no-brainer decision.


So, here's what to do

Identify your one key objective for your product. For example: we want to double revenue within 6 months.

Determine the metric to measure that. Obviously, that's revenue. :P Or a variant of it.. say, A.R.P.U.

Determine the underlying drivers of that metric and establish how to track them regularly.

Then find features you can add to your product to make users carry out those actions, or remove impediments to those actions.