Innovation Velocity

Google Maps launched two cool new features yesterday : in-app music support and new commuter tab. Here’s what the Verge reporter Casey Newton had to say about that. And, I totally agree with him.

Casey Newton@CaseyNewton

Google Maps delivers useful updates more regularly than any other app at its scale https://t.co/zwlfZSubFr

October 1, 2018
Given how great Google is at improving Google Maps, a free consumer product that is used by over a billion of us, one has to wonder why they haven’t really improved Docs over the years. There is a common school of thought that says that enterprise products tend to generally move slower since monetization and problem-solving are the primary goals. Delightful experiences and constant iteration are often put in the back seats. Big companies wouldn't want the tools they rely on to change very rapidly as long as they solve immediate problems for them. Docs is one of the major offerings of Google’s GSuite. One can make a reasonable case that ecosystem lock-ups enable companies to have good enough individual enterprise products.

This line of thinking makes sense intuitively. On the flip side, consumer products are constantly fighting for our mindshares and have to constantly deliver fresh experiences to keep us engaged. This variance in expectations of target markets could perhaps explain the variance in how fast Docs and Maps improve. That being said, Docs is also used as a standalone free consumer product by hundreds of millions of us. So, I don’t see a major reason not to innovate faster on it. After all, there are ample other alternatives like Quip and Dropbox Paper. What Google has going for it are its brand and ecosystem lock-ins for consumers.

When I think about Slack, I can see how unexpected bottom-up explosive growth and lack of direct sales early on pushed it to become a fast moving consumer company disguised as an enterprise company. But, that theory breaks down when you put Docs in a similar context!

So, I guess, as with most startup theories, we tend to take something that’s descriptive and try to make it predictive. No one was talking much about “consumerization of SaaS” or bottom up growth with direct sales layered in later until fairly recently. We see what worked for a few well known companies and try to pontificate way too much.

Here’s another explanation for the variance that I hadn’t thought of :

Steven Sinofsky@stevesi

There’s so much here.

One big thing imho: there’s just so much possibility in maps that the big thing is just picking. It is so early in mobile maps.

Docs has not been interested in winning over Microsoft or on mobile so struggles.

Also teams structured very differently.

October 2, 2018