Wednesday, June 6, 2012

8 Questions for a Product Owner on Customer Delight

It's easy to talk about delighting the customer, but how do you really do it? As a Product Owner, it is your responsibility to create great products.  How do you take this philosophy and transform it into competitive advantage for your company or your project?

During our workshop, "Making the Whole Organization Agile," Steve Denning lead the participants through a series of exercises and role plays: 12 Practices of Customer Delight. I decided to participate this time around, and reflected on how I could improve my own business. I was stunned at the ideas I was able to produce. I'll come to that at some point...

Here are first 8 questions Steve in our Delight the Customer workshop:

1. What is your goal?

As a product owner, you should always be clear on this. It can however be helpful to challenge your ideas. Think of an idea for a product or service. Is this a new idea or an extension of an existing product or service? If its a new product, try to think of an extension to an existing product. If you thought of an extension, try to think of something totally new for your customer.

2. How will it play with your customers?

Now that you have an idea or two, how will customers react to it? In the course, participants find two people to role play interested, but critical customers. In the real world you can ask real customers. You be the salesman, entrepreneur or inventor. Your partners play the interested customer - not the customer from hell! and not the apathetic customer - interested, but a bit skeptical. What do you learn from these interactions?

3. Who is your core customer?

Who are the people you have to delight? What outcomes do they want?  Sometimes you have a distinction between users and buyers. For instance top managers buy a CRM system but relatively low-level staff use it. Sometimes the relationship is even more obtuse, e.g. Google gets money from Adwords customers, but provides value to internet search users, who make up 98% or more of the clicks. Even though these users provide no revenue (this time), Google's ability to generate ad revenue depends on the loyalty and presence of search users.

4. What do your customers want (or rather, think they want)?

Ask them. They'll tell you. Of course they don't know what they don't know so you'll need to go beyond that.

5. What do your customers really want?

What is the need behind the features they have asked for? Customers generally ask for incremental innovations. Disruptive innovations address the needs of new customer segments. Disruptive innovations may well seem irrelevant or undesirable to established customer segments. Brainstorm! Keep your eye out for disruptive innovations. And surprise your customers with something unexpected.

6. What is it that your core customers might not like about your product?

Bad profits. We have all experienced them. For example: many airlines have discovered many sources of bad profits: Fees to change your ticket that are so high you're better off throwing the ticket away. Invalidating your ticket because you skipped a leg. Charging you for checked baggage. Charging families extra to sit together. Who likes to pay these fees? They are a rip-off! Such practices get your customers upset. Those are what we call bad profits! What are you not going to do, so that your customers don't get upset?

7. How could you delight your customer sooner? 

Faster is almost always better. This question was a real "Eureka!" moment for me. One of the first signs of a successful agile transition is improved employee morale. How can I make this happen faster? Watch this space...

8. Could you delight more by doing less?

My DVD remote control has 54 buttons - and I use about five of them. My friend's TiVo remote has 28 buttons... and I use about five of them. My daughters iPod has five buttons. Less is more. What can you simplify or get rid of to make your product better?

Questions 7 and 8 really helped me move my thinking forward. I am now considering entirely new avenues for my business. Should be fun!

Want to experience and learn the practices yourself? Want to learn the remaining four practices? Want to transform your product or service? Come to my workshop in Seattle, Making the Entire Organization Agile, June 26 to 28.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Agile Management: An Idea who's time has come?

I just saw that the CIO of General Electric is being quoted by the Wall Street Journal that their software development process is Agile. Wow! If nothing else, we can now say that Agile is officially on management's radar.

One of my favorite tools for monitoring trends is google Insight for Search. Let's look at how Agile Management and Agile Software Development compare:

Where once software development dominated the discussions around Agility, it looks like the focus is shifting to management, which, in my mind is where it should be. Development groups can create islands of common sense in the middle of the chaos that is there organization, but to really focus on delighting the customer, the whole organization has to be on the same page. That means management, especially top management.