Bethan Palmer Bethan is a Java developer and a Java Champion. She has spoken at conferences including JavaOne/Code One, DevFest and NetBeans days. She has a degree in English Literature.

Key Takeaways from Business of Software USA 2018

1 min read

Tania Katan

This year’s Business of Software conference in Boston has, sadly, come to an end. As usual there was an excellent standard of speakers, lots of networking and sharing of ideas, and useful practical workshops. Here are some of my key takeaways from the conference:

1. You’re probably making incorrect assumptions from your analytics

Jared Spool gave a great talk about design metrics, including which ones are meaningless. He also spoke about how incorrect assumptions are often made when looking at the data. One example was the obsession with conversion rates, and the difficulty of persuading people that increasing your conversion rate can decrease profits. If you stopped all marketing efforts your conversion rate would increase (only a small group of your most loyal customers would find you) but you would have less customers.

conversion rate

2. ‘Everyone needs’ often means ‘one person asked for’

Rich Mironov spoke about how it is often the most recent feature request that sticks in our mind rather than the one that should actually be built. He discussed how salespeople can push for features for single customers (and are good at persuading CEOs).  There were some useful tips on how to prioritise the correct features (as well as how to interpret certain often used phrases):

politics of scarcity

3. You can increase your product-market fit by using a simple questionnaire

Rahul Vohra showed us how he increased his customer base by ensuring product market fit. He did this by using a simple questionnaire that asked new customers how disappointed they would be if they could no longer use the product. He also explained how to use the responses to focus on building the most useful features.

product market fit



4. Think inside the box

Tania Katan gave a talk about how to sneak creativity into the workplace. One example she used was her small cubicle office and how she brought in an artist to make her small box-sized office a creative space. Her talk included an exercise where everyone had to think of a limiting space or belief and write for 5 minutes about all the ways it could be overcome. Doing things like this can force you to think in a different and more creative way and come up with creative solutions.

Tania Katan

5. Think harder about what people actually want

In both his talk and his workshop, Bob Moesta spoke about the differences between ‘features’ developers often talk about and what people actually want to achieve. The example in his talk was that a bottle cap is an object while sealing in water is a function. Function-oreinted systems are more useful because they are focused on the actual value the object provides. The root cause of someone’s behaviour should be your focus.


These are only a fraction of the takeaways I got from the talks at Business of Software, among all the other new ideas I got from talking to lots of interesting people in between the talks.  Were you at BoS? Let us know your takeaways in the comments.

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Bethan Palmer Bethan is a Java developer and a Java Champion. She has spoken at conferences including JavaOne/Code One, DevFest and NetBeans days. She has a degree in English Literature.

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