Customer don’t know what they want

Product development is often about fusing a great customer requirement with a technical solution from the architects and the team who are to make it an reality. Both sides must be taken into consideration or it will end up a product that look great but can’t be used or is great to use but do not fill a requirement.

I think really great products come from melding two points of view—the technology point of view and the customer point of view. You need both. You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. —Steve Jobs in Inc

This come from an interview with Steve Jobs in Inc back in 1989 but it is as current today as it was when it was published. Every customer who enters the stage at a product company have a goal in mind. Something they want to achieve. They have been working on their own, trying to jolt down the end goal in as many ways they could. In sketches, in specifications and sometimes even in prototypes. The challenge for the product company is not to create what they bring to the table, the challenge is to find all areas of that goal they have in mind but never wrote down on the specifications.

Back to square one, the customer can’t tell you what they want. They will however let you know when you have created what they did not want. Or when you created the bare minimum of what they expected to see. All in all, we end up in a situation where the customer is unhappy and might even feel fooled since they have something they did not want and the producer is not understanding why they wont get payed since they did their part as they saw it. Is there a way to handle a situation like this before we get to this point?

It all comes down to iterations. Whether it is called Agile Development, Scrum, Kanban or something created in-house it all comes down to short goals and verifications together with bold product management. If we allow ourselves to do some wrongs to make a right it is no longer as scary to show a prototype to a customer and get back that is was all wrong. With short iterations we can just scrap what we had, create a new take on the same problem and show it instead.

If we allow ourselves to do some wrongs the entire software product market would mature in a way it is today to proud to do. There is few customers who would accept this way of working in a bigger scale since they have most likely been burned by other software producers in the past.

Try it out, throw yourself in front of a customer; show and tell. Before you know it, perhaps you even get better at demoing your other products if it is something you do over and over again.

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