by Paula on October 4, 2011

Like it or not, Facebook is evolving. The small changes that we’ve seen over the last few weeks will be nothing compared to what’s coming as they work hard to compete with competition and to become bigger and better and give us more, MORE, MORE!

I read a very good article at the weekend “Facebook is getting too damn complicated” by Chris Taylor. He was addressing the ‘Feature Creep’ where overexcited designers, programmers or engineers get so involved in trying to ensure that everyone gets everything they want from the one place, that they end up with something that gives nobody what they want as it’s just too complicated!

Software Development

As a bit of a techie at heart, I have more than a passing interest in software clarity and structure. In a previous career role I spent a year implementing and training on a new piece of project management software and saw here what is being referred to above with Facebook. The software I was training on had started out as a good programme serving a well-defined need for a specific area of industry. The development then seemed to have been trying to meet two goals:

  • Delivering all of the requests of existing clients to keep them happy
  • Widening the breadth of functionality offered in order to attract a wider range of clients

Without going into unecessary further detail, the outcome was that the add-ons were not fully integrated into the existing package and seemed to float outside the core functionality of the system. And on top of this they had made it so complex for the end-user to understand that only about 20% of the software features were being used by clients.

They then found themselves in a situation where they no longer had the sales focus of a great piece of software with a specific target market, and the existing clients were too confused to recommend it and using so little of it that it seemed an expensive waste of money.

What does your business do?

The examples of Facebook and the project management software are also problems that businesses get into, particularly small businesses. I see a diverse set of clients through my support and guidance on use of Social Media, and the first thing we always look at is their business – what they do, what their goals are, what makes them stand out. Only then am I in a position to advise on the right social networks for their business and the activity that is best suited to what they want to achieve.

Sure I have clients who have great clarity over their business and their direction and are absolutely ready to reap the benefits of Social Media, but I also have clients where we need to take two steps back. Until they are crystal clear about their business direction, the message to clients will be confusing. And if you are not clear about your business then the chances of you being able to translate what you do clearly to a client is very limited. And if they aren’t clear what you’re selling and what they’re buying, you can be sure they won’t be buying.

Clarity and Focus

So how do we as businesses learn from the struggles with Scope Creep that we see in the Software Development departments? The bottom line is that in order to grow and evolve as a business we need to offer clarity and focus. We need to be sure who we are and what we do and not be tempted to increase our portfolio of offerings to the point where a client is too confused to buy anything. We must not be tempted into making our reach so broad that anyone looking for these skills goes to a specialist, and we must not have our head-turned every time a competitor offers a new angle and feel that we must add it too just to keep up.

By taking time to stop and think what our business stands for, what makes us unique, what we do well and what we can be proud of offering, we can ensure our clients too can feel sure that they are choosing the right business for their needs. They can have confidence that our focus will be about delivering what’s promised to a high standard, and we won’t be off chasing the tail of every potential opportunity.

So, remember…. while we can’t be everything to everyone, we can very much be something very important to a focused group. Let’s hope that Facebook remembers it’s loyal audiences, listens to what people want, and ensures that in it’s desire to stay at the top of it’s on-line world, it doesn’t forget why it’s there.


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