Satisfying the majority of needs may mean you satisfy nobody

How could my title be true, you ask?  After all, if you satisfy the majority of needs that people express musn’t you necessarily satisfy the majority of people?  I think not.  Take, for example, eliciting requirements for a new application.  Imagine that out of the 100 people you ask that they all provide 20 requirements and 18 of them are identical.  So you look at all the unique requirements of which you have, let’s say 218 – the 18 identical ones everyone shares plus 2 unique ones for each person.  You set out to do the 18, figuring you’re covering 90% of what everyone says they want, right?

And when you put it into production, nobody is happy with it?  Why not, because each person had 2 more requirements that they wanted and didn’t get.  So, while you satisfied 90% of everyone’s requirements, you satisfied exactly 0% of anyone’s complete requirements.

Yes, my example is extreme at best, but you get the idea.  You can certainly try to prioritize requirements based on how many people ask for something, but unless you take into account whether the unique requirements they have are a deal-breaker, it may not matter if you complete the common stuff with speed and elegance.  In today’s economy, people have lots and lots of choices, and while you can’t satisfy everyone all the time, you can certainly not quite satisfy everyone all the time.

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