Working backwards

Werner Vogels describes Amazon’s approach to product definition as working backwards, starting with, in order, the press release, the FAQ, a definition of the customer experience and the user manual(s). A few comments:

  • When I was an R&D manager we didn’t go as far as starting from the press release. Well, to be honest none of the projects I managed was big enough to get its own press release anyway (things are different now that some of my work is on multi-company standards efforts where press releases are cheap). But we did write the user manual first in some cases. I can testify that in addition to providing a lot of clarity for the development team it also results in much better user manuals. Because they are written based on what the thing does, rather than based on how the thing is implemented as is often the case with after-the-fact user manual.
  • When you do the way Werner Vogels describes, the FAQ is more a list of “expected questions” than a real list of “frequently asked questions” but that still beats 80% of FAQs out there that are lists of “questions we’d like you to ask”.
  • This kind of reminds me of the French approach to dating. Starting from the end and working your way back to small talk.

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