Your Company Will Be In Trouble If You Don't Focus On Product Quality
from the better-products-needed dept
One of the biggest signs that a business has trouble ahead is when it seems to be focusing on everything except the quality of its products. Back in the dot-com boom it was common to see a bunch of MBAs get together and draw up plans for a technology company, raise a bunch of funding, throw a lavish launch party, buy a Super Bowl ad, and then hire some programmers to implement the product almost as an afterthought. Most of them aren't around any more. If I were a Microsoft shareholder, I think I would be worried about the rumors going around that "an aggressive acceleration of the company's investment in its data center network" will be "one of the cornerstones" of Microsoft's online strategy. Obviously, Microsoft is going to need more and better data centers to compete effectively with Google. But ultimately, success in the online marketplace is the result of having great products, not great data centers. If you've got such a great product that demand is outstripping your server capacity, it's not that hard to buy additional infrastructure. But if your core products suck, a lot of servers and disk space isn't going to do you any good. Indeed, I suspect that it doesn't even make sense to build "data centers" in the abstract. It's hard to know exactly what mix of hardware will be needed and how it should be set up without a specific suite of applications in mind. So it seems like it would make sense for Microsoft to focus its resources on developing and marketing great products (like this one, perhaps) and upgrade their data centers as demand warrants. Treating data centers as a "cornerstone" of their strategy seems like they're putting the cart before the horse.
Techcrunch points us to an even more egregious example of focusing on the wrong things: AOL has been touting the number of new sites it plans to launch in the coming year. It's hard to think of a more meaningless statistic than the number of websites your company owns. AOL says it plans to roll out 30 websites by the end of 2008, but one good website will generate more traffic than 30 bad ones. Google, for example launches new sites all the time, but you don't see them bragging about the number of new sites they're launching. They understand that what their customers care about is what their sites can do, not how many there are. Of course, this is probably an outgrowth of AOL's misguided idea that it's in the advertising business rather than the online content business. When your company focus is on advertisers, then websites probably seem like interchangeable places to sell ads. The problem is that if the content isn't any good, you'll have fewer and fewer eyeballs to sell to those advertisers—even if the number of websites you own keeps going up.