June 28th, 2011
[ Software Development ]

I read about FISI while reading about SparkFun here.

FISI = screw it, ship it

While I’m sure it’s roots are in traditional products and engineering, it’s far more relevant in this web world some of us inhabit. A lot of us literally have no experience building or selling real objects. We build these amorphous things that go by terms like apps, sites and scripts.

If you were selling real world widgets, or better yet let’s make up a real world example. Your family owns a small restaurant. You grow up watching them trade their time for cash by making people breakfast. You decide you want to try selling products instead of time. Your parent’s give you permission to sell some stainless steel coffee mugs at the counter in their restaurant. You save up some cash from your paper route and buy $100 worth of coffee mugs.

Once you receive your first shipment, you unpack them and setup a lovely display at the counter and promptly sell 7 mugs on the first day. The pace continues and you can see the promised land when you’ll have your cash back and start making some. Three days after your first sale, the ugly starts.

A handful of your original customers start complain about the handle. It doesn’t fit into their car cup holders, which makes the mug almost useless for them. They aren’t asking for their money back but they aren’t happy either. As well, some of the mugs have started to leak. For those customers, you offer them their money back.

Immediately you get on the phone with the manufacturer. The good news is they’re aware of the issues, explain that their next version will remedy them so you can look forward to that when you next order. The bad news is you still have 3/4 of your order unsold. Naturally you take those unsold mugs and toss them in the trash and place another $100 order for the new and improved mugs so you can start selling again. Right?

Well clearly not. In the real world we rarely toss out perfectly good product simply because we think we can make it better. Even in the above example, there’s no proof the next batch of mugs will be any better than the previous. In fact, there’s as much chance they could be worse. When the product is software, it’s all too easy to toss out the previous batch because we’re not willing to sell it. It doesn’t represent us well, it’ll hurt our reputation, etc. The cost of manufacturing software can be easy to forget about.

The next time you’re deciding if your software is ready for market, take a moment. Think about what your sales targets were. 100, 1000 licenses? Now imagine that’s a box of 1000 widgets sitting on your desk that you’re about to toss in the landfill. FISI may be closer than you think.