Customer Development and the Evolutionary Approach to Project Development

    “Customer Development” (at the initial stage) plays a decisive role in the success of the project. Of course, a successful Customer Development alone does not guarantee the success of a project, but if it is not carried out or is carried out poorly, this greatly reduces the likelihood of success. The phrase evolutionary approach is included in the heading because, in my opinion, the “Customer Development” process should be on the entire life cycle of the project, and not just at its initial stage.

    At the initial stage, the “Customer Development” process should go along one of the branches: your product has value offers that have no analogues on the market; The product has analogues and competitors already on the market.

    No product analogs on the market

    That this is so, one must be convinced of this, conduct research. Otherwise, you risk reinventing the wheel. Interviewing with a client is not an easy process. Here you need to be both a psychologist and a sociologist. Either you have the ability to conduct such interviews by nature, or they need to be developed, and this must be learned. It is necessary to have analytical skills in order to draw the right conclusions after a series of interviews, to find and highlight common patterns that will satisfy the needs of all (or most) of the respondents. By the way, for conducting an interview it is useful to use the six rules of Gleb Zheglov when working with a witness, which he outlined in the film “The meeting place cannot be changed.” If the process in this branch was long, after completion it is necessary to see if competitors have appeared during this time, and make possible adjustments if this happened.

    There are product competitors on the market.

    I will not dwell on issues of competition in price offers. This is easy to calculate and is not the only problem of this branch. You need to find and realize the functional benefits of your solution. It is necessary to interview competitor users. Inquire from them about the problems they encounter when working with the product, and take into account these problems in their product. This is also not easy to do. If the user worked only with this product, does not have experience with other analogues, he may simply not be aware of the problems and inconveniences and not tell you about them. In the past, I worked on a project for Panasonic. The project was to transfer employees from using the existing application to a new one. I did not conduct an interview, but spent three days observing how people work with the existing application, I saw the problem areas and took them into account in our development. This yielded results, the transition was painless, and the company was ready to order new developments from us. So sometimes it’s useful not to ask users, but just look at their work with the application. In addition to finding flaws in competitors' products, there is another important aspect of the problem: habit and unwillingness to retrain for a new product, even if it is better than the current one. When Microsoft Word first appeared, it already had a strong competitor to Word Perfect. Microsoft has made it possible for a user to select a Word Perfect or Microsoft command set. I am sure that this had the effect of luring users already working in another application. If your product has the ability to choose an interface style,

    Customer Development in the process of project evolution.

    Users have already started using your product. You should not stop the “Customer Development” process, but you need to transfer it to a new stage. Not all users will receive feedback: suggestions for improvements, comments about any inconvenience when using your product. It is very useful to create tools that will automatically control how the product is used. Record the sequence of user actions when working with the application. Which panels open, which reports are requested, which buttons and in what sequence are clicked. This will highlight the interface elements and functionality that is not used or is rarely used, and remove it, make it less accessible or, conversely, more visible. This will highlight the chain of user actions,

    ViaLatM service project implements a tool for logging user actions, after collecting statistics, I will share its results and provide data on changes in the application made on the basis of an analysis of users using the application.

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