Amazon Web Services — the company’s massive cloud computing business — released more than 500 new products last year.
For every single one, Amazon followed an unconventional development process, AWS SVP Andy Jassy revealed at a recent Macquarie Research summit.
Before Amazon developers write a single line of code, they have to write the hypothetical product’s press release and FAQ announcement.
Amazon uses this “working backwards” approach because it forces the team to get the most difficult discussions out of the way early, Jassy says. They need to fully understand what the product’s value proposition will be and how it will be pitched to customers. If the team can’t come up with a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making.
It also helps with more rapid iteration and keeps the team on track, Jassy explained.
Jassy’s AWS team isn’t the only one that uses this atypical product approach: It’s institutionalized throughout all of Amazon, according to Brad Stone’s book “The Everything Store.”
At Macquarie’s conference, Jassy also said that 90% of the AWS roadmap is determined by broad customer requests, meaning the company won’t build new features unless it knows a lot of people want them.
That sort of frugality is important as competition in the cloud computing space heats up, with Microsoft, Google, and Amazon all expanding their offerings and lowering their prices. Generally, it’s a big time for AWS. In its Q4 earnings in January, Amazon announced it would start breaking out the business’s revenue numbers in its future earnings reports. Macquarie Analysts are hoping that Amazon will report that it’s losing money through AWS’s operating income, because that would prove that the rest of Amazon’s business is actually more profitable than it has always seemed.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.