Understanding the customer

This content is syndicated from Agile & Business by Joe Little. To view the original post in full, click here.

In my viewpoint, one of the key things about Agile is bringing the customer and the Team (the implementors) MUCH closer together. So that the Team starts to understand many (most?, all?) of the marketing issues and activities. In effect.

Let me mention two things.

1. While the customer usually knows their own problem (well, pretty well), they typically are rather clueless about what the solution should be. Nonetheless, we typically ask them 'the requirements', and we are shocked, shocked later when they say "Well, now that I see it, it is not what I want."

As one angle to this, most normal people don't want 'a product'. They don't want software or a technology gizmo (yes, there are a few people who do want this, but they are few). They want only what the product will bring, ie, that the problem will go away. As an example: they don't want a music playing thingie (Zune or iPhone), they just want to be able to hear the music they want almost anytime they want to. (Yes, the 'problem-solution' metaphor does not work well in every case.)

Along with this, the customer is a normal human being; meaning, even what they say is not very articulate.

As a perhaps not minor point, no two customers agree.

2. We can't hear what the customer says. This is of course normal human behavior, as, for example, any wife (or husband) knows. And there are also lots of additional root causes for us.
* we put extra people (noise) in the process.
* our topic is very abstract
* we are talking about something that does not even exist yet
* it has all kinds of geeky, fast changing, fast moving lingo around it
* we want to hear features, and the customer wants to talk about his problem
Etc, etc, etc.

To improve this situation, Agile says: Bring 'em much closer together. Even closer than we can possibly imagine. Far from perfect, but hopefully most of the time much better.

(Why still imperfect? Well, for example, even a husband and wife who have been together for 20 years don't perfectly understand each other. As another example, most business-customer types are challenged hanging out with techno-geeks talking a different language.)

Now, it is still terrible, so I think we should enable ourselves to discover more quickly when the cycle is especially stupid.

So, I am suggesting putting in a tight P-D-C-A cycle in there (Plan, Do, Check, Act). That cycle in Scrum is a Sprint and then a Release (ie, two cycles).

With some metrics (which are indeed very hard, but hey, delivering business value is what's important). Example: measuring the BV delivered after each release with some metric. We will still make lots of mistakes, but maybe we learn faster.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one + seventeen =

There are 101 ways to do anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”


“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”


“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”


“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”


“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”


“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”


“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”


“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”


“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”


“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”


“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”



To explore how we can help you, please get in touch