Because we are used to thinking that Google is so big that everything which it does is bound to be supported by an unbelievably big number which will be its budget and the sort of marketing brains which dwarf the wattage output of super novas except that you’d be right only on the latter. Like any large company Google adopts the approach that each project needs to work on a shoestring budget and fight hard for its existence backed, mostly, by the glamour of the Google brand and the brilliance of its people.
This means that if a project is slow to get off the blocks, or slows down, it gets axed. Google Wave seemed to be one of those ideas which, ahead of its time, would bring together the kind of real-time, cutting edge collaboration, sales teams, business people and professionals, used to working remotely and with the office could only dream and pray about which is why Google’s announcement that it is to be axed shocked so many users. So what went wrong?
The same things which wrong-footed Google Wave can also kill your own business and this means it’s important to understand just where Google went wrong:
1. Great idea which was poorly supported: Google Wave was truly revolutionary with drag-and-drop capability of media files straight from your desktop to the web and the ability to see characters appear as they were being typed. When you have something that new hoping that it will be ‘discovered’ is not enough. You need to have a strategy in place which will help you communicate with your potential audience and begin the education process of your clients.
2. Lacking a distinct identity: Google brought out Wave in beta and then it also brought out Google Buzz, shortly after, and added new functionality to Gmail and made Google Docs even more appealing and suddenly Google Wave was struggling against its own siblings and beginning to die the death of a thousand cuts. If you have a product which you want the world to wholeheartedly adopt you need to present it like its your flagship one, even if it’s not and time developments and releases in other products in ways which do not directly compete with it.
3. Slow development and buggy performance: Everyone understands that a brand-new product is going to be less than perfect (particularly if it is still in Beta) and will patiently wait for it to develop. That patience however begins to run a little thin if the product appears to be dead and no progress is being made. In the case of Google Wave it appeared to be yet one of those Google releases (like Chrome in the beginning) which were going to be in buggy Beta for a long, long time. Put in place a clearly defined communication strategy with your audience which allows you to begin to pass the messages you need regarding performance issues and timelines.
4. Did not show benefits immediately: Google Wave was to have many uses but in the beginning it was clunky, non-intuitive and frustrating, all of which seemed to be against it when it came to the all-important customer experience. No matter how many teething problems your product has or what stage of development it is at, it will be adopted if those using it understand, clearly, how they benefit. In this case, even I who could see the long-term plans and was really excited by it, felt that I was working, when using it, in an environment which had more problems than the ones its use solved. If you bring out something convince your target audience that its necessary to them and they will stay with it long enough for you to make it live up to its promise.
The problem with any corporation bringing out products willy-nilly is that, at some point, it stretches itself thin and is incapable of supporting them properly. It then faces the difficult choice of scaling back (as Google did here) and learning from the experience, using the knowledge gained in one product to directly benefit others. The same goes for your business. There is no failure (barring the complete meltdown of your company) you cannot benefit from in terms of what you’ve learnt and how much better it can make you.