Thursday, December 20, 2007

Velocity matters

Perhaps you saw the interesting article in the Sunday NYT entitled Google Gets Ready to Rumble With Microsoft.

Buried deep in the piece is one lesson that seems especially appropriate for us: velocity matters. I know the pace of change and especially our time-to-market on technology/online issues is a common frustration. I hope you know that our new steering committee is working hard with McClatchy Interactive to improve that performance, chiefly by focusing on key priorities and untangling communications. Your continuous feedback to steering committee reps – including me – is essential.

And some of the bottlenecks can be navigated on your own, by speeding up decision-making and willingness to experiment at your own site. Too often, we fall prey to caution, to paralysis-by-analysis, to letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It sounds simpleminded, but ready-fire-aim often is the soundest decision. We can change it later; we can iterate; we can fine tune.

The thing we cannot do is dawdle.

Here's the relevant portion of the Google/Microsoft article, though it's all good:

Google’s quicksilver corporate culture can be jarring for some employees, even for Mr. Schmidt. He recalls that shortly after joining the company and its young founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, he was frustrated that people were answering e-mail on their laptops at meetings while he was speaking.

“I’ve given up” trying to change such behavior, he says. “They have to answer their e-mail. Velocity matters.”

VELOCITY does, indeed, matter, and Google deploys it to great effect. Conventional software is typically built, tested and shipped in two- or three-year product cycles. Inside Google, Mr. Schmidt says, there are no two-year plans. Its product road maps look ahead only four or five months at most. And, Mr. Schmidt says, the only plans “anybody believes in go through the end of this quarter.”

Google maintains that pace courtesy of the cloud. With a vast majority of its products Web-based, it doesn’t wait to ship discs or load programs onto personal computers. Inside the company, late stages of product development are sometimes punctuated by 24-to-48-hour marathon programming sessions known as “hack-a-thons.” The company sometimes invites outside engineers to these sessions to encourage independent software developers to use Google technologies as platforms for their own products.

New features and improvements are made and tested on Google’s computers and constantly sprinkled into the services users tap into online. In the last two months alone, eight new features or improvements have been added to Google’s e-mail system, Gmail, including a tweak to improve the processing speed and code to simplify the handling of e-mail on mobile phones. A similar number of enhancements have been made in the last two months to Google’s online spreadsheet, word processing and presentation software.

1 comment:

  1. from a comment at BuzzMachine's "Google is God" post -

    "What if newspapers had a more automated process where a business could sign up for an ad and it would become like a little blog, that you could update at will?"