Q: Boiling down a software effort’s mandate to one sentence is hard. Any tips on how to get there? Does it really have to be one sentence?
A: In short: yes. Feel free to add that follow-up paragraph but stick to one sentence.
That sentence is a tool that you and your team need to be armed with. Slogans and short statements are incredibly powerful. They’re tools for other people to use. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you nail down the statement.
Don’t restate the goals of the organization or try to market your idea.
Bad: At HealthWireSystems Enterprises, we serve millions of people around the world with daily health tips, often served via insurance company portals. Our users speak 12 different languages. Our current website is in two languages but we need to be in more. In order to achieve our Q4 revenue goals, we need to refactor our CMS.
Good: We need to internationalize.
Don’t prove the business case.
Bad: People are used to seamless purchasing from Amazon and other retailers. We need to create a great experience in order to achieve our goals and compete. We will create better personalization, a better shopping cart experience, and fully integrate with shipping service providers!
Good: We must lower the barrier to purchase.
Don’t cheerlead or even restate the prior case to get buy-in.
Bad: We’ve spent a lot of time and energy updating content across seven (count ‘em – that’s 7!!!) content management systems. This is a bad use of energy from people in ops, marketing, and editors and we spend so much time emailing, and not enough making great stuff. In the interest of making great stuff, we’re all going to migrate to Adobe Experience Engine by the end of 2019. Let’s go!
Good: All content must live in one CMS.
In the Form of a Question
It’s hard to let down your defenses and stop pitching your idea. But here’s why it matters: You need something that can be turned into a question, and asked over and over again. Compare the mandates. Look at the “Good” ones. They can all be restated as questions:
- Does this help us internationalize?
- Does this lower the barrier to purchase?
- Does this help all content live in one CMS?
Those are the questions you want to ask about every new ticket, task, and sub-initiative. Dumb as it sounds, this simple framing is a power tool that cuts through politics, feature creep, bloat, and all the other pork-barrel product politics that drag software down and lead to failure.
One statement that can be turned into a question—and used to define success. Short enough to be a slogan.
Look at the work on your plate today. Can you frame it as a single statement and then turn that into a question?