My journey from “General Availability” to “Beta forever”

If you are a software geek (I was one a looooong time ago), you would have got the import of the title instantly. But even so the application of GA – General Availability – and Beta – is not to software but to me – a normal human being (by most assessments). But let’s clarify […]

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If you are a software geek (I was one a looooong time ago), you would have got the import of the title instantly. But even so the application of GAGeneral Availability – and Beta – is not to software but to me – a normal human being (by most assessments).

But let’s clarify the definition so we are all on the same page. Beta is an early release of software, usually available on demand or to a select community, and is the process by which feedback is gathered and the product improves through revisions until it gets to a quality and feature threshold and it is ready fo GA! Wow! And I promise I did not Google that definition, so I do remember a thing or two from my software days.

Now, Google turned that definition on its head by introducing a concept called extended Beta (some even called it Permanent Beta). Gmail – when it first came out – adhered to its definition. Since it was not officially GA, it could be forgiven for entertaining bugs, and credit to G that they constantly updated the Beta software to make it better but it remained in Beta (for a looooong time).

Now for the fun part!

What does it have to do with me or you? Well, as glory, fame, societal acceptance seeking business professionals, we are programmed to declare that we have arrived ASAP – or in software terms we are in GA. That could mean, we have been part of a startup with a glorious exit. Or risen to be a VP of Evangelism (I kid you not that title does exist) at a haloed organization.

And so we are bug free and in GA mode. Take notice world!

Well, I was following that path. Engineer -> Manager -> Director (prefaced with a Senior subsequently) …. -> SVP. And I was GAing frequently, each release better than the other. And the world was taking notice (or at least I was under that delusion).

Until something happened a couple of years ago (more about that in a future blog) that caused an about face and I have been in Beta Forever since.

So how does being in “Beta Forever” feel like? Well, three points really

  1. Everyday is day zero – This is shamelessly stolen from the amazing Jeff Bezos Amazon culture. But it is true. I don’t believe I have all the answers, I may have fewer than the previous day even. And that’s OK. I will ask more questions, make assumptions and iterate rapidly. Until the next day which is day zero all over again. And so on.
  2. Continuously providing value to others – By following step #1, the rapid delivery means you need to be seeking feedback on your software (which is me in case you forgot). But it is not an ego-stoking exercise to get a 5-star rating. Rather it is about seeing how many lives you have been able to touch and listen with empathy, understand the audience and go back to step #1.
  3. Mission-on-the go – This may sound counter intuitive. How can I define the mission while on it. Well, I am in Beta. Forever. So, it gives me the freedom to fly. And as I execute on steps #1 and #2, the mission of how I am developing, what value am I bringing or not and how that can improve the lives of others becomes clearer. Slightly more every day. And one day it becomes crystal clear. For the curious, mine is “Empathize, Educate, Empower“. And I discovered it by doing #1 and #2 for over a year.

But that mission may change as my Beta feedback guides me.

That’s my story from GA to Beta Forever. I don’t believe I am going to GA anytime soon. And I am perfectly Ok with that.

If you feel that you have GAd, ask yourself Why? Would you consider giving yourself the permission to go back to a Beta release? It will be gut wrenching but I can assure you it is worth every pain and discomfort you may have to endure.


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