January 4, 2013Doug Hadden
Doug Hadden, VP Products
We’re preparing for the FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC) conference later this month in Ottawa close to our head office. After all, who wouldn’t want to be in Ottawa in beautiful January? [The average January minimum temperature is −15.3 °C (4.5 °F)]
It’s our 7th annual conference. Which brings me to the top 7 things that highly agile software companies can learn from our approach to be more customer-centric. For one thing, it’s a steering committee, not a user conference. This might seem like a subtle nuance because we’ve adapted the standard technology user conference to be more effective. Differences include:
- Customers set the product roadmap: we don’t tell customers what they are going to get and when they are going to get it. Rather, we present a working roadmap and customers change it. This means that our product direction is adjusted to meet changing needs.
- No sales people: that’s right – FISC is not about selling. It’s about engaging FreeBalance executives and managers to change our products and processes. Unlike the traditional user group, we’re not there to influence customers – we’re there to be influenced by customers.
- Maintenance pays for the event: we don’t use the conference to generate more revenue from customers. Rather, governments that pay maintenance are provided with two places at the conference including air fare and hotel at FreeBalance internal rules (i.e. least expensive economy flight.) We don’t choose the representatives. And, we don’t penalize customers who need to come from afar.
- It’s no “boondoggle”: this isn’t a passive event. Customers are placed on panels, present the latest good practices used by their respective governments, complete customer satisfaction questionnaires and take an active role in brainstorming on the roadmap. Sure, it’s not all work so we arrange for cultural events and provide some rest for the jet lagged.
- It’s not all about us: this is an opportunity for government professionals to network and share good practices. We bring in expert speakers covering important Public Financial Management (PFM) topics. This is a critical part of our mission as a for-profit social enterprise.
- Transparent with privacy: we respect the privacy of our customers so we do not provide any information on our web site, blog or tweet stream to identify any specific customer’s comments. We do provide overview information of the conferences and tweet interesting comments. We do publicize the voted FISC Chair. [The current FISC Chair is Dr. Cleopatra Gittens, the Accountant General for Antigua and Barbuda.]
- Agile: the schedule can go out the door based on customer feedback and results from brainstorming using the “6 Thinking Hats” methodology. Our President and CEO, Manuel Pietra, enjoys these on-the-spot adjustments, the midnight preparation for an unscheduled presentation – basically the complete destruction of the agenda to better align with customer needs. (Which drives me crazy.)