How to make great products: Integrate and Iterate

I believe it’s every government employee’s job to make great products and services. Details vary, but in the end, I think it’s all the same, whether it’s a government hospital, processing benefits, or national security.

I try as much as possible to emulate tech start-ups, but Apple most of all, in my development of government products and services.1 I can sum up those lessons in two words: Integrate, and Iterate.

Integrate. This speaks to the internal process. The only way you can control quality of output is if you control for quality of input. You have to have control of the people, technology, and money that go into your product. Because if one of them fails, the product fails. If you can’t have control over something that your project needs, be very careful about relying on it, and be sure to have a backup plan in the event that “dependency” fails.

Iterate.2 The original iPhone did not have an App Store. It did not even have copy and paste. But it was better then the rest of the market, and in the following years it got even better. Take the same approach. Produce something that is better than the rest, but do not attempt to make it perfect. You can’t. Make it better than what is available, release it, then iterate, iterate, iterate. Apple keeps releasing new versions of everything, every year. Why shouldn’t you?

1. Why tech start ups? I can’t think of any other world-leading industry in this country that is more worthy of emulation. But you can learn from any good company, and I have pulled a lot from the case studies in James Collins’s Good to Great and Built to Last, and other successful government agencies in Scandinavia, Australia, Taiwan, and more.
2. Thank you to Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, for answering my question on this topic at the last week’s Next Generation of Government Summit. Matt really came across as not only the leading tech entrepreneur we know he is, but a very thoughtful human being as well; definitely on my short list of people I’d love to have a couple of beers with.

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