"I don't know about you people, but I don't want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do."
— Gavin Belson, Silicon Valley
Writing software to make the world a better place — that's a lofty goal, even for Gavin Belson on the HBO hit comedy, Silicon Valley. Yet why is it that we've spent years doing the exact opposite with software in enterprise IT? We've built applications to simply show data living in our data centers. Have a lot of products to sell? Put them all on a web page! Myriad of services you offer to your customers? Throw them all on that web page too! If they really want our help, they'll figure out what it all means, right?
Unfortunately this is a terrible way to create applications, regardless if it's on the web, mobile, or any other emerging digital channel. The data is good, but we cannot start with our data in mind — instead we must start with our customers' needs in mind. But why this change and why now? Our customers (and increasingly our employees) are being presented with so many more options from your competitors, both those known today and tomorrow's digital startups. Simply put, the barrier to creating new software solutions is approaching zero. Making this transformation is central to the BT Agenda — applying technology to win, serve, and retain customers.
Traditionally we've built software from the bottom of this triangle up, establishing data models and then throwing as much of that data onto a page before raising our arms in victory. Building a customer-obsessed BT agenda requires the exact opposite.
  • Talk to your customer.This may sound common sense, but most organizations we talk to skip this step. Know precisely what your customer needs, when they need it, and then stay out of the way.
  • Build the minimum viable product that meets those needs. Don't come up with 90 requirements that take 2 years to build. Build just what they need and stop!
  • Ensure feedback loops exist, and quantify that feedback.Whether it's app store feedback or analytics packages, you must know how people are using your software. Quantify that feedback, and start making all product decisions based on this data.
  • Rinse and repeat. Instead of claiming success when 90 requirements are met, iterative success comes when you have enough feedback that gives you clear data of what to create – or remove – next. With this data in hand, make these changes, and start the cycle over again.
Customer obsession means that satisfying your customer never stops, making the above steps iterative. This is not just a technology change, but a process and culture change as well — the last two can be the most challenging of all. My colleagues and I continually learn from our clients that are making this transition and look forward to helping you with it as well. Thoughts/comments/questions? Reach out to me on Twitter, or by email