An adage often repeated in the retail industry is that the customer is always right. Even if standard operating procedures were followed correctly, the customer still commands their wallet. In today’s age, with social media further extending the message of even the most anonymous customer, organizations must be cognizant to build products that drive customer retention.
Modern organizations find themselves in the crosshairs of customer demand. More than ever, digital experiences offer that close-knit bond between the business and product development, placing the most ardent supporters at the forefront of innovation. Yet despite the clamoring of customers, many organizations of all sizes continue to think that value comes from product teams, and not from external sources.
The DevOps Dilemma
Though the customer being right is nearly a forgone conclusion, it hasn’t taken hold in software development. One of the challenges in the agile community today is associating features with value, much like consumers who compare competing mobile devices or personal computers. The problem with associating the two is that features (or user stories) derive from customers, business analysts, or product owners and serve as a hypothesis to what could be. That is, without knowing how the feature will actually survive in the wild, conclusions about the feature are unfounded. Thus it’s only appropriate that these remain as inputs during the product development process.
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So what is the alternative? As development priorities and interpretations of the market evolve, it’s especially important for staff to stay cognizant of what the customer wants and respond as appropriate. In the midst of automated deployment and quality assurance, nearly automating the customer engagement process is top of mind too. It’s also important to deliver something that most closely meets the customer’s needs, not what whatever crude artifacts were handed to them at the beginning of their planning process.
Climbing into the Product
Everyone can come up with ideas, but execution is where the true meat lies. In order to know what your customers challenges are, you need to climb into the metaphorical ring with them and duke it out. That’s how Apple founder Steve Jobs built the foundation of the technology he pioneered – not by building features, but by living the challenge through attending calligraphy classes at Reed College, which served as inspiration for the typography on his Mac computers many years later.
So what do we do instead? First, we need to stop holding teams accountable for building features and instead encourage the understanding of customer needs. What we need to do is to ask them to interpret their understanding of the inputs we have given them, and to articulate some idea of what they think the value will look like. Additionally, it’s a statement of what we know now and a commitment to learn more so that we can deliver the best possible refinement on that value that we can manage in that time box.
In the end, the customer is king because they will determine what value is. Development teams will make their assessments based on what they think the customer wants. Even in technology, the customer is always right.
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Is your organization looking for guidance on how to better serve your customers through technology? Speak to one of our experts at email@example.com for a consultation and download our DevOps guide below for innovation best practices.