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Better For Companies: Slow And Steady Or Fast And Furious?

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This year was a pretty amazing one in technology: Many startups were funded and acquired, and there were some real advancements made in the way that we communicate on a daily basis. I’d definitely call 2012 a major win, but it’s been interesting to watch how companies operate to reach their goals and hit moving targets.

Sure, it’s not new that companies have to completely shift directions when something they’re doing is flat-out not working or the space that they’re in is oversaturated.

How they get there is the key, and there’s more than one way to skin that cat. Two trends I saw this year, which are polar opposites, were the “slow and steady” approach and the “hacker mentality” of pushing things fast and iterating quickly. Some companies had success with their choice of operating procedure, and some didn’t. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Facebook

No company comes up with ideas and executes them as quickly as Facebook. It’s the “Hacker Way,” after all. You’ve seen it as recently as the launch of “Poke”, it’s Snapchat “competitor.” Mark Zuckerberg and company wanted this functionality for its 1 billion users, and when it couldn’t acquire Snapchat, it built it itself in just 12 days.

Did it work? It seems like it, since the app hit the No. 1 free spot on Apple’s App Store. Facebook Gifts? Quick hit and it’s great. Messenger and Camera? Same thing. Acquiring Instagram? Brilliant move. But it’s not always roses for Facebook when it comes to its fast-and-furious approach.

When it comes to privacy policies and terms of services changes, it just seems that Facebook’s quick approach rubs people the wrong way. Change is difficult, especially when it comes to personal information. With its own changes and Instagram’s as well, things got hairy.

Maybe Facebook should slow down on those types of initiatives.

Google

Google’s 2012 was one of patience. The company watched what the rest of the world was doing, especially Microsoft, Facebook and Apple. What Google did was consistently put out amazing products, with partners, that pleased and delighted audiences. The Nexus 7 and 10 were both a long time coming, and the waiting paid off. The products are amazing. The same thing goes for its newly released Chromebooks.

When it comes to social, Google was very meticulous about its presentation of Google+. Nobody who works for Google ever explained it as a social network, yet the media ran with the “Facebook vs. Google+” story, because it was easy to write. Looking at Google+ as a social network is purely lazy thinking.

What Google is doing with social is integrating functionality into all of its products in a very slow, planned out, way. It’s working for them. Look at the Maps debacle with iOS. Google had been working on a native Maps app for iOS for quite a while, but didn’t rush it out when the market was screaming for it.

Google did things slowly and intelligently, and it worked out for them in the long run.

Apple

Let’s not kid ourselves. Apple has the best year ever every year. The iPad mini will probably be the hit gift of the holiday season, and along with a new iPhone, laptops and computers, the fanboys, including myself, are happy campers.

In the above case, Apple was nice and slow with its rollout, as it always is. However, there was one rushed misstep, and that would be Maps for iOS 6. It’s an awful product that wasn’t ready for primetime. Apple wanted to distance itself in that space from Google so much that it released an inferior product.

And that’s something Apple simply doesn’t do often. Its CEO, Tim Cook, even apologized for it. That fast-and-furious approach didn’t work in this case, and Google’s slow-but-sure approach did.

Microsoft

What can we say about Microsoft? The company does really well in the enterprise space, but can’t get its stuff together when it comes to regular old consumers. If you’ve used a Surface, you know what rushed looks like. The product is horrible, and the operating system wasn’t complete either.

When a consumer product is riddled with bugs and slowness, you can tell that the company behind it wanted it out of the gates to simply “compete.” Xbox continues to dominate, and for some reason Microsoft takes its time with releasing new consoles and games. And it works.

Why can’t this approach be taken with its core products and new offerings? I have no idea, but Microsoft is a mess.

Snapjoy

For me, Snapjoy is the startup story of the year. Yes, even over Instagram.

This small team from Boulder set out to build a fantastic photo-hosting service that they’d want to use themselves. They never rushed a thing, even when they were finished at Y Combinator. People sniffed around at what they were working on, but the site was never fully opened to the public in a “finished” format. It was always beta.

The team pushed out release after release, feature after feature, a brilliant iPhone app built for the iPhone 5 experience — and all of that hard work paid off.

The company recently sold to Dropbox, which is an absolute match made in heaven. The guys at Snapjoy didn’t rush. They took their time, and it paid off. Big time. That team will now head up the photo division at Dropbox, and everyone should keep an eye on that company for a slew of reasons.

Instagram

Yes, Instagram. The company sold to Facebook for more than $700 million when all was said and done. The co-founders turned down a deal from Twitter and stuck to its guns when it came to what it wanted to be acquired for.

Its CEO, Kevin Systrom, spoke to Zuckerberg off and on, and finally got the deal that was right for him and his employees. They all now work at Facebook but stay in a tidy self-contained unit. His patience, as well as Instagram’s patience and passion for its users, paid off. Big time.

The terms of service and privacy changes? See Facebook. Not smart.

Most of these companies saw success in the long run, or are on their way to a huge 2013, but they all took different approaches. Find the one that works for you and your company and stick with it. Consistency always wins, and even when you have to change directions quickly, selling yourself out for a “fast win” isn’t always the way to go.

Remember, it’s your users who matter, because they are your customers. Whether you’re selling hardware or giving “software” away, if you don’t have customers, you have nothing.

Here’s to 2013.

[Photo credit: Flickr]