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Asking the customer: Product development on steroids

An important element in product development is to ask the customer what they want. It is a part of the LEAN methodology. It does not make sense to make products or services which does not solve problems for the customer, and they therefore do not want to buy.

On traditional focus and product development testing can be performed using focus groups or other events where potential customers are gathered. It might be fairly easy to find some costumers for the local cheese focus groups. You just go to the local supermarket and ask some customers if they will help with the survey, for a basket of cheese. It is more difficult to get a broad costumer base, when testing enterprise software. In this context the costumers are scattered over large areas and would probably like more than a basket of cheese for spending a day telling about their ideas for the product.

The web 2.0 word is crowdsourcing, where the (potential) customers are asked to contribute, with their ideas to how products can become better.  An article in Startupnation by Lynne Meredith Schreiber has the following points.

  • “You may not be paying them very much money, but they get things in return – they get control – at least they should get control, creative control, to the extent you would never give to employees.”
  • “Who knows your product or service better than you do?… Especially in today’s Internet Age, [this] concept can apply to emerging and established brands alike. Furthering a person’s passion by involving them at a higher level is a win-win for you and your consumer base”

I had developed some PI tools for The easy PI message mapping documentation service and PI mapping diff tool in mappings. These tools are published as free services on my website. The tools let people perform tasks that they needed to do much easier. I encourage people to comment on the tools and give feedback on what could improve the user experience. A lot of this feedback could I not anticipate was requested. I could then implement this tools.

I have no idea on how I could get that many responses without using SCN, and think it is a great place to share product ideas.

I don’t know what the limits for how much people will help in your product development. And you also have to be within the SCN code of conduct. The participants should know they are getting some improvements to the products that they are expecting.

An alternative is the InnoCentive area, where you can create competitions and pay the best submissions. The InnoCenticve competitions require a larger contribution for the individual participant, and might miss some of the ping-pong from a discussion.

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