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Feature Creep is the addition of too many features to a product or service rendering them complex and/or difficult to use.

 

An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Sanat Kumar on 10th Nov 2020.

 

Applause for all the respondents - Rakesh Naik, Sanat Kumar, Glory Gerald, Ibukun Onifade
 

Question

Q 312. The downside of adding delighters in a product is 'Feature Creep'. Why is it undesirable and how can Research and Development (R&D) teams prevent feature creep?

 

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Feature Creep in general means adding more feature to existing features, which might add complexity to the product use.

 

In general every product has a product life-cycle, where post maturity it tends to follow decline. But to extend the maturity phase normally new features are added. Eg- Smart Phones where on a regular basis new features are added to ensure that maturity phase could be extended

 

 

At times addition of multiple features in the product which make is non-user friendly and complex which is termed as “Feature Creep”. The focus of the product owner should be on Quality and user friendliness of the product rather than Quantity.

 

Disadvantages of Features Creep:

1)      Its misuse or waste of money and resources of the organization (as time is spend on development, testing, launch so on)

2)      Makes product complex and difficult to use

3)      If features are not properly thought through consumers will not appreciate it, and might lead to dis-satisfaction rather delighter

4)      At times increased features might boost initial sales but later customer lead to customer dis-satisfaction

5)      Non user friendly

Reason for Features Creep:

1)      Competitors have the feature which the product might not have, or competitor might simplified the features

2)      Customer requirement might not have been clear with development team

3)      Pressure from competition to add more and more features

 

At times Organization or Product owner should understand when to put a halt on adding more features and focus on Quality of the product. Steps which R&D team should take to reduce/eliminate Feature Creep are:

 

1)      Clear understanding of customer requirements (which can be collected via customer feedback, or primary research)

2)      Create a strategy for the product- stay focused invested on the key priorities

3)      Invest time and resources on to key priorities

4)      Frequently analyze customer feedback

5)      Focus more on Future gains then short term gains

6)      Analyze competitors product (or market leader- if the Organization is not market leader)

7)      Do rigorous  testing of Alpha and Beta testing

8)      Be proactive in analyzing un-necessary feature and scrap it

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When people simply starts adding new features or new requirements to the scope of work after the project has been signed off and started is known as Feature Creep also called as Scope Creep. 

 

Feature Creep is Undesirable due to below reasons :

  • It generally turns out to be costly as it involves more investment. The actual cost of adding a feature can sometimes turn out to be way more than the estimated cost. 
  • Slows down the delivery of the project/product. The actual effort required to develop or design the additional features can sometimes turn out to be way more than what is estimated hence causing delay in delivery of the project.

                                                              image.png.f9120604481f412b52a233da9cc1844f.png

  • Most of the time it ruins a product or project, hence the stakeholders must be made aware of the impact that it can bring in to the overall project/product.
  • It can also add complexity to the design of the product and thus not making it user friendly.
  • It is a result of poor planning, insufficient product strategy and incorrect priorities.
  • Feature fatigue - Sometimes having too many features is like having too much of a good thing that may not add much value to the user. According to Grabowski, " Too many features can encourage initial purchase but damage satisfaction and reduce repurchase probabilities, leading to lower customer lifetime values." Better explained in the below graph.

                                      image.png.1b795caedac32553bc870b42ece18d9f.png

 

Techniques to avoid Feature Creep :

 

1) Focus on Core Features(what customer wants):

Identify the core features that provide the maximum value to the target audience. One must understand the target audience, their need and their wants also one must understand the problem that he or she is solving and for which user. Once all the features/requirements are gathered one must prioritize the features/ requirements that can add value to the customer and design the product or define the scope of work accordingly. The features/ requirements can be prioritized using Pareto analysis. One can also use a simple bar graph as well to understand the which feature is mostly used by users and can kill the feature that is not used in common based on the graphical results such as below in order to avoid bloating the product.

                                              

                            image.png.84c7f296ec05e5af25a2450accfddfe3.png Image Credit: Nick Babich

 

2) Create a Roadmap and follow the same:

Project Managers generally ensures a Project Plan is charted out and is adhered to by all the participants of the project so that success is achieved at the end of Project Closure, as planning ahead is very important and vital for any project's success. Below points are taken into consideration at this stage.

  • Define and Finalize the scope of work and the same has to be reviewed, approved and signed off by the stakeholders
  • Identify milestones of the project and tag timelines to the same. The milestones have to be reviewed when scope changes are requested to ensure that the project delivery is not delayed.
  • Define a framework on how additional change requests are addressed.
  • As scope of work is finalized at an early stage, educate the stakeholders on the impact of project cost and delivery if any additional requests have to be accommodated.
  • Create Effort Impact Matrix as it will help the project team to get the most effective results without putting in extra work.

                        image.png.9da90a8a4cf024473d7069d8e40b4d7a.pngImage Credit : hygger

3) Avoid Gold Plating:

Sometimes the project team or the product team in order to make the stakeholders more happy, they tend to add more features and over deliver that the stakeholder may have not asked for. This tendency is called as Gold Plating. This is very unnecessary in most cases as it requires more effort from the project team and sometimes it ends up making the final output more complex that may lead to upsetting the stakeholders. Hence Gold Plating must be avoided.

                                                           

                      image.png.eb332a245096348c61e5c579a1e643ab.png  Image Credit : Plutora

 

4) Must learn to say 'No' to Additional Features:

                      image.png.4a1d0d821b3cad62d6b817ba9fefc508.png    Image Credit: Intercom        

  

Saying 'No'  to stakeholders is very challenging for a project manager however it is an important skill that one should hone in order to avoid Feature Creep. When stakeholders demand for additional features, its important to evaluate the same using the above tools and provide a good reasoning as to why the additional requirements cannot be accommodated also educate them about the impact on Cost and delivery of the project/Product

 

5) Establish quick Build Measure Learn Cycle:

As stated earlier, it is important to validate all recommendations or ideas before investing time and effort in building them. When there are new requirements, it will be good to test them with real users. This is done to determine whether they are adding value to the target audience. Hence in order to validate such design ideas or recommendations so that the team does not waste time, energy and money at a later stage, we can look at applying lean principles to improve the user experience. Lean UX design by Jeff Gothelf integrates both Lean and Agile Methods to improve the user experience. Teams who follow this will be be able to determine success for the add on features by measuring the results with their users.

                     image.png.94b82061f7a6d20e215d084975fab830.pngImage credit: Lean UX via UX Planet

 

Conclusion:  Feature Creep is generally experienced in Software Development or RPA Development. Simplicity should be the key objective in designing rather than bloating the product as simple solutions have better utilization. One should carefully select only the necessary features/requirements in  designing the product that can add value to target audience thus avoiding the chances of Feature Creep. Other terms for Feature Creep/Scope Creep are :Concept Creep, Project Scope Creep, Project Creep, Feature Bloat, Featurism and Featuritis.

 

Successful Examples of Avoiding Feature Creep:

Trello, Zoom, Google Drive

 

Successful Examples where Feature Creep has worked:

Facebook, Photoshop, Excel

 

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Feature creep is the tendency to add features to your product that might derail the core usage or essence of the product.

 

This is undesirable for the below reasons:

 

1. More features more complications: the end product may end up having so many features that it might get complicated for the end user.

 

2. More features more issues: the number of issues increase which may lead to employing of additional resources to resolve them

 

3. More features more cost: the cost of the features may over burden the basic cost of the core product.

 

How to overcome feature creep?

 

1. Assess the customer needs

a) what is the basic requirement of the customer?

b) will the feature be extremely useful?

c) collect customer feedback to assess what are their requirements 

d) ensure you set a scope for features to be added

 

2. Assess the business needs.

a) analyse what features your product wishes to attend to in a basic sense.

b) consider how much time and effort will be required to create the feature

c) assess how much impact would the feature have on the product workflow

d) is it going to impact your profits?

e) understand what features would ensure that ensure your grip on the market

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FEATURE CREEP

As a project progresses, a lot of additions may be suggested to the project ostensibly to make the outcome better. These additions sometimes become so much that the product becomes more complex than planned and eventually is not acceptable to the consumer, this phenomenon is referred to as feature creep. Feature creep is a quite common phenomenon most especially in software development projects.

EFFECTS OF FEATURE CREEP

ON THE CUSTOMER – A product with feature creep is usually very cumbersome to use because of all the unnecessary features. This will mostly lead to a bad user experience.

ON THE DEVELOPERS – Unplanned additions will lead to inability to meet up with project timeline in most cases. It is also very difficult to stay within budget once there is feature creep in a project.

HOW TO PREVENT FEATURE CREEP

1.       PROPER PLANNING – Product creep is often the result of poor planning. Before a project is launched, it is very important to make extensive research on the needs of the end user. There should be no assumptions at all, all outcomes of the initial research should also go through a validation process.

2.       SIMPLICITY – It is always tempting to add some new features to a product with the belief that it will make the user more delighted. This is not always the case, most user prefer simplicity and ease of use to sophistication. Caution should always be employed before addition of new features.

3.       CLEAR COMMUNICATION – Before the beginning of any project, the entire team must be clearly communicated on the plan and purpose of the product. Inclusive deliberations should be done to ensure that every member is on the same page as regards the scope and details of the project.

4.       TRAINING – Proper training should be given to team members on feature creep. They should know how to identify and react to suggestions to add features to a product. Members must be trained to stick to the timeline of the project, this will keep a constraint on addition of new features during the project.

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While all answers are exceptional, the one that stand outs is that of Sanat Kumar for highlighting the effects of feature creep both on the customer and on organization. He has also elaborated methods to keep feature creep in check. Well done.

It is worth to read all answers, as I mentioned all answers are exceptional.

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