It’s important to take customer feedback into account, but software developers can’t always follow customer advice. Customers tend to ask for old solutions to new problems, but those old solutions rarely work, says Agile expert Pollyanna pixton. Starting a new product requires new thinking. At the recent Better Software Conference and Agile East in Boston, Mass., Pixton explained a repeatable method for fostering new ideas and determining which ones have the most value.
If you want to see some people crumble, have them turn their devices over.
Pixton is well qualified to talk about product management. She has nearly forty years of experience working to increase the effectiveness of collaboration and leadership in many different organizations. She is a founding partner of Accelinnova LLC and also President of Evolutionary Systems and Director of the Institute for Collaborative Leadership.
She quoted Henry Ford as saying, âIf I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. Back then, Pixton explained, most people didn’t know about the technology behind automobiles. They wouldn’t be able to describe a running automobile and would come back to talking about horses, which were more familiar.
Pixton’s approach to going beyond customer feedback and real customer needs begins with four questions we should all be able to answer about the company we work for. Who are our customers ? What do our customers need the most? How do we deliver value to our customers? What’s the best way for us to deliver this value to our customers?
Create decision filters
Answering these questions helps product managers decide how to prioritize different team goals. Pixton strongly recommended developing “decision filters” for the business. A decision filter is a simple question linked to the answers to the four questions above. âWhat mission statement would you put on a notice board? Pixton asked, “It needs to be short and simple, so people can read and understand it as they walk past.”
Southwest Airlines, for example, strives “to be the low-cost airline. “Southwest understands that its customer base is people traveling on a budget. Customers need a low-cost option to get from point A to point B. Southwest is delivering this by reducing its cost. operating costs whenever possible to provide the lowest airfare possible. His research has shown that the biggest cost to the airline is the time its planes spend on the ground.
From there, they could develop easy-to-follow decision filters. “Will this help us to be the low cost airline?” Will this reduce the time on the ground? Pixton said these issues can make or break decisions about meal choices (less loading on the plane is better) to baggage prices (free baggage check-in encourages passengers to check their bags beforehand. theft and helps reduce loading times).
It is important to let these decision filters reverberate throughout the organization. Bring these concepts up early and often. Focusing on creating value for customers early in the process avoids having to analyze product failure later.
Apply decision filters from the start
Pixton recommends starting any new product with a product launch meeting. This meeting should include representatives from all groups important to the process: developers, quality control and operations, but also customers, marketing, sales, finance and perhaps others, depending on the product.
It is important that these people are not only present at the kick-off meeting, but also participate. Pixton asks participants to do without their cell phones for the duration of the meeting. “If you want to see some people freak out,” she said, “have them turn their devices over.” People will balk at first, according to Pixton, but the results are worth it. People become much more involved and productive when they let go of their mobile devices and the distractions that come with them.
The product launch meeting is important because it sets expectations for the entire project. It must cover the whole product life cycle. Taking a holistic approach to software design and development is difficult, but it’s also rewarding. âSometimes we focus so much on our own little piece,â Pixton said, âthat we might forget that we have to focus on the whole thing.â
The main focus of the product launch meeting is brainstorming and creating initial stories. Pixton said it was important to immediately submit stories to the company’s decision filters. If they are not successful, then they are not worth starting development. Keep redefining the story until it meets the needs of the business before assigning the work to the developers.