App Realities - Rushing, Overspending, and Lessons Learned

January 9, 2024
App Realities - Rushing, Overspending, and Lessons Learned

When I was first learning about all the ways in which I was failing at sales and marketing for my school, our business coach introduced us to “that guy” who basically sends an email to his list every single day. And people stay on his list, because he tells a great story every day. And he manages to make it relate to his business every time. My brain almost exploded during this session, because I was struggling to come up with stuff to talk about once a week, and ended up dropping my newsletter back to every other week.

But much like coding, story telling is a skill, and like any other skill it needs to be practiced. At the beginning you suck. And then you start to suck less. Eventually you get to a point where you think “yeah, that’s not bad at all.” I don’t exercise the story-telling skill every day (my head really would explode if I tried) but I have learned how notice stuff happening in my everyday life and relate it to … teaching people how to create and launch apps.

Today’s story came to me last week as I was setting up (as one does) for a New Year, New Me strength training habit. Got my workout planner set up (it’s a spreadsheet that begs to be an app, but that’s another story) and was trying to figure out how to put together a workout on our 20+ year old Bowflex Xtreme SE 2. The Xtreme came with a DVD that has been lost for about 10 years now that illustrated all the exercises and setups. I finally found a PDF manual for the Xtreme, and decided it would be simpler to print the manual, and leave it beside the machine. Of course, then I needed a binder for this 40 page manual (there are a LOT of exercises).

I quickly searched through my shelves, and found a sacrificial binder, from a project I worked on in 1999. It was about the same size document, so the binder was perfect. Now you may be thinking … “Lori, why are you dragging around documentation for a 25 year old project?” I must admit I’ve been unusually resistant to getting rid** of this piece of documentation, because it was a tangible reminder of my last stint as an employee, and as a software architect.

However, nothing can change the fact that it also represents a reminder of months of effort down the drain. In 1999 I created a very complete high level design for a software service called “FIFO (Farm In, Farm Out)” for the oil industry that was shelved and never used. And that made me very angry. Angry at the waste. Given what I was making at the time, it was over $20,000 of wasted effort. And that doesn’t even count the time of all the people I consulted while I was working on the project.

This was 25 years ago, and I wish I could say this doesn’t happen anymore. But that would be a lie. I have a very good friend that I met in that business coaching program I mentioned above. The first conversation we had was when she asked me for advice about her app. The app that she’d spent over $25k on, and still wasn’t ready for release. And in the end was never released.

Here’s what I have observed:

  1. It’s WAY too easy to get excited about your grand app idea, and;
  2. You want it ALL, and;
  3. You want it NOW, and;
  4. It’s WAY too easy to start throwing money around to get it built, and;
  5. Developers aren’t going to say no when you ask for ALL THE THINGS, because … more money is more money

Why does this sort of thing keep happening? Why do people spend so much time and effort and money on their apps for … nothing in the end?

Because one of life’s lessons that is mostly learned from very expensive mistakes experience, is that sometimes you can’t just throw money at your problems to make them go away. Sometimes it takes a little bit more …

If you’d like to discuss your app idea (or app project in progress) with me, I have a limited number of free consultation spots available for the people reading my blog. But do it fast, because I have a couple other projects on the horizon and I’ll be closing the door on the free sessions shortly.

** Why yes, I did scan that document to save it. I’m still not ready to let COMPLETELY go.