I’m not often one for quoting – but Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual you have an obligation to be one.” If Mrs. Roosevelt were living during this age of technology and expressionism, I have to imagine she’d be a strong proponent for allowing people to personalize the things they use and purchase. It’s about expression. This brings me to a recent debate I had with a colleague over whether to add a tool that would allow users to personalize an SAP product trial. My colleague believed the addition would neither add value nor cause a high volume of users to flock to the trial. Was she right? It is one of those unknowns, but I did not want to be dismissive of her comments and concern. Although I did not have statistics at my finger tips that could have helped me mount a solid defensive position, I relied instead on observational facts.
The fact of the matter is most human beings have some type of Pavlovian response whenever they get a chance to put their own stamp on something – I know I do. Whether you’re adding vanity mud flaps to your car, or your own business data to an enterprise software demo system – humans have an insatiable desire to make things feel like their own. There’s nothing abstract about this and we live it every day whether we realize it or not – go into any Starbucks and you’ll hear a fairly common refrain from the person in front or behind you ”grande non-fat drip skinny pumpkin spice latte” – and while we’re at it, let’s have the barista scribble your name on the side of the cup with a sharpie. It’s all about personalizing things we interact with day in and day out. Software is no different – perhaps just a bit less caffeinated. In all seriousness, even the most simplistic of options like adding a logo to the mast head or changing the data set around so that it feels like you have a degree of ownership make a difference – personalizing is just adding a bit more glue between you and the thing it is you’re using. Allowing for people to personalize their software is just an extension of what they do in their daily lives. It has become the rule not the exception. So is there value? I believe so. Individualism remains a strong trait that many folks believe in. As the adage goes content is king – but content only gets royalty status if the user has the ability to personalize it. The bottom line is personalizing must be seen as a business imperative, not a feature.