How do you connect directly with your end-users?
Along the years, I have met and discussed with many customers in the Large Enterprise market, trying to best understand how they used the product I was in charge, listening to their enhancement requests, to their issues, to their satisfactions. Those sessions are key for the product manager: it puts in perspective the reality of how your product is used vs. how you think it will be used. Sometimes, it is a good reality check, sometimes you come out with a big smile because customers are using it “as advocated” and seeing benefit.
This is where things become interesting. When you meet with those big “customers”, you generally meet with IT, with the BI director and rarely with the end-users. There can be many different profiles of people and roles who are using the product in different ways, and yet you talk to generally one of those profiles. These power users always have a fairly good idea of what the users they are serving are doing with the product, mainly because they have to answer the requests of their end-users. Or the issues.
The point I would like to make here is that the feedback you gather from these corporate visits will be mostly focused on one type of user. Even if these power users you are discussing with know their audience, it is still not the same thing than getting feedback directly from the person in the business who uses your product. The reaction may be very different, as well as the findings but these types of direct contact are hard to set up.
With SAP Crystal Interactive Analysis 1.0 SP1, the requirement gathering process is different from what I had experienced before since there is no involvement of IT or any central structure. You are directly in contact with end-users, but since the product is freely downloadable over the web the challenge is actually knowing where they are. We solved this puzzle by including a direct connection in the product to SAP Idea Place. This space allows the community of end-users to post their wishlist, vote for other’s idea and create this direct link with the team creating the product. We have put in place a communication channel with the development team.
I see great value to be able to analyze all the ideas our end-users would be able to provide, see some trends emerging in their requirements, and also believe that the community will see benefit in viewing and voting for other’s ideas. I am intrigued now to see what will be the first series of ideas for IA that come out of this communication channel , and how we will deal with them over the next releases.