What Are You, Really?

Confused man in a blue shirt and a backwards baseball cap.

I take a lot of briefings, and I am always looking to answer two key questions:

  • If I give you money, what’s in the box that I just bought?
  • What are you optimised for, and what are you not appropriate for?

The first question is to clarify what, exactly, the thing is. It’s easy to describe yourself as a platform, or a SaaS, or some other generic category thing, but I need to know what the actual product or service is.

Anyone who struggles to clearly articulate—in concrete, plain language—what you get if a customer gives you money doesn’t really understand what they’re selling and why anyone should care. Everything will struggle from this lack of clarity.

Then I want to know what choices have been made in building this thing. If someone attempts to say that it’s good for everyone, then I am immediately turned off. Firstly, this is unlikely, and secondly water is good for everyone and yet we still have a variety of optimised versions of it (still or sparkling? Bottled or tap? Flavoured or plain? etc.)

If you’re more specialised than water, then you have made choices about what you will do and what you won’t. You have to say no to things in order to optimise, and I want to know more about those choices. Knowing what you are not is just as important as knowing what you are, and I would argue it’s often easier to decide what not to do. As I said last week, quickly ruling a bunch of things out helps you focus.

As always, if you need help with this process, that’s what PivotNine is for.