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From Product-Centric to Customer Centric


April 23, 2012

Doug Hadden, VP Products

There was an interesting link from earlier this month to a blog article “Moving from Product to Customer Centric in 4 Steps”. My first reaction was wondering what I was missing – 4 steps? What have we been doing wrong? It took us a lot more than 4 steps!

There are some great points here such as “you don’t wake up one day and become customer centric.” Mind you, there are a number of companies in the self-delusion of being “customer centric”. (I’ve often thought that managers when considering the Discipline of Market Leaders recognize that the company isn’t innovative or efficient so they fall back on the notion of “customer intimate”. They often do so with limited time with customers.)

Moving from Product to Customer Centric Product?

My criticism of the article is that it is very much a product-focused approach to customer centric. The author recognizes that some product processes need to change to support customer centric development that includes:

  1. Reduce complexity
  2. Establish the user experience as the basis of collaboration
  3. Use maps to guide the way
  4. Aim for a compass, not a GPS

There are a couple of more processes needed within the product team to be customer centric:

  • Usability testing to validate the personas and scenarios and the effectiveness of user experience
  • Customer engagement through social media, steering committees, users groups, collaboration portals etc. to validate assumptions
  • Direct engagement of product managers and product developers with visionary or demanding customers
  • Holistic process to integrate product development directly with support and implementation: silos need to be broken down to create customer-centric product development

Customer Centric beyond Product

I’ve described some of the customer-centric processes that we use for product development. The Customer-Centric journey goes beyond product.


Customer Centric Processes in Action

Customer-centricity covers all aspects of a business:

Performance Scorecards need to be aligned to customer centric metrics like open cases, response times, satisfaction surveys, retention, referrals, engagement meetings, sustainability, event participation so that customer centricity is institutionalized and measured.

Customer Centric should be institutionalized in a Balanced Scorecard

Customer Support must be enabled as a key company distinctive competence. This means more than an empowered customer support organization – it means action to bring experts from all parts of the company to solve problems. It also means a linkage to product implementation to address problems before they start and end the “hand-off” culture of most companies.

Implementation Services need to be directly aligned to product and support. Customer needs must smoothly, without friction, pass into the product development organization. And, professional services processes need to adapt beyond simple Project Management 101 and product expertise to provide holistic solutions. This is a critical factor because many companies, when faced with a customer problem or opportunity, drop the ball because they think it’s outside their business. Customer-facing staff must advocate product and process changes to satisfy customer needs.

Key Elements of the FreeBalance i3+qM Methodology

  • Integrated Teams – services and product development are provided by an integrated team focused on the customer to provide transparency and quick problem resolution.
  • Iterative Response to Changes – a sequenced approach to customer and implementation changes. Our methodology is based agile software development like Extreme Programming (XP) that place high value on adaptability. Agile development allows changes at any stage of a project. FreeBalance extends agile development techniques to services as well to enable fast response and to reduce risks.
  • Implementation Focus – international good practices templates are combined with proven program management processes to accelerate implementation. Our methodology is focused on the success of each specific customer implementation, not software releases. The FreeBalance Program Management Office manages both services and product development teams.
  • Quality Testing – each country-specific implementation of the FreeBalance Accountability Suite is tested through unit, system, load/stress and regression testing, based on actual customer environments.
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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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