What’s most important: features, schedule or vision?

I learned a lot of valuable lessons working with Steve Perlman at WebTV Networks and Moxi Digital.

If you worked or met with Steve you would easily agree with me that his passion is nothing but extraordinary. He is positively obsessed about building amazing products.

I learned other things from Steve as well. One of my favorites is V.S.C.F.

Those letters stand for: Vision. Schedule. Cost. Features. And in that order.

This is how how Steve explained it to me:

1. Vision. Without a doubt, the founder’s vision of the product is the most important thing. Everything flows from that vision. I couldn’t agree more.

2. Schedule. Steve would often say, “Market windows don’t move”. Shipping the product on time is a big deal. If you slip late the market may no longer be there. Schedule trumps cost & features. Especially in a world of software or connected devices you can always add software improvements later (e.g. iTunes App Store is a beautiful example).

3. Cost. Cost is a bit tricky to think about when it comes to consumer internet applications vs consumer electronics like WebTV or iPhone. Cost is important. But you have to get the vision & schedule right. Cost will improve over time if the product is great along with engineering innovation & volume. We subsidized WebTV in the early days. One could argue that was a derivative of freemium.

4. Features. There is no question that features are important but vision, schedule and cost are more important. I think that’s right. Consider Twitter as an example. They shipped early, with less features and with a powerful vision that drives the company’s every move.

I keep VSCF in my mind all the the time.