The right amount of narrative detail

A friend of mine, the Director Product Marketing for a successful hi-tech application developer (they do some cool monitoring and experience analysis), was often (unsurprisingly) confronted by an environment of speeds and feeds.

His company had a road map for some awesome new features in one of their products. The improvements were based on Microsoft making a new API available.

Microsoft delayed the launch of the API which undermined my friends companies commitment to their customers.

R&D found a way to use PowerShell as a temporary work around.

Then R&D told sales and sales told customers - culturally this was common at the company.

The thing is, customers didn't need to know this. And those who had been told were confused, it raised questions about the companies ability to execute and why they had committed to deliver something with such a dependency. Some customers were also not impressed that PowerShell was being used for the feature.

It opened one hell of a can of worms.

So my friend confronted the head of R&D and asked him "Why do customers need to be told this?" To which the head of R&D said the customers needed to know for transparency and that they had always done this with customers. "Why have you always done this with customers?" Said my friend. R&D reiterated transparency. My friend said "But why do they need that level of detail?". The head of R&D said they didn't need it, .not upfront at least. "So we can be transparent in documentation about the use of PowerShell for those who need to know and they will find out as necessary. And we avoid the risks illustrated previously. Confusion etc. And when the API issue is fixed we swap the PowerShell work around out, change the documentation and most customer roles are none the wiser, there is less confusion upfront and even less confusion when the eventual change happens."

The head of R&D agreed.

Doing the right thing for customers doesn't always mean you need to get into the details. In fact, over sharing can be counter productive.

The same goes for stories. Deliver the right amount of information to affect the change you need. By developing a robust narrative strategy you will have the guide rails for what you need to include, and what to leave out.