Today was a proud moment. Together, with our client, a key decision was made. True, we make lots of decisions on a daily basis, but this was a decision that will end up saving over 1,000 hours in man power that otherwise would have been spent going down a rabbit hole of building the wrong thing. But here’s the kicker. It wasn’t the Slingshot team or the client that ended up making that decision, but rather the users of the product, the customer, made it for us, and it was beautiful.
In the software world we all want to be better, we all want the perfect process, the most efficient means of developing, the most innovative designs and the most disruptive products. We search, we implement processes, we dive deep down into the crevices of our brain to grab hold of that something special.
But if we’re being honest we all need to be humbled, and eventually we almost always will be. No argument, brilliant insight, or flawless logic can defeat the almighty customer. They will tell you, without hesitation, that your idea sucks. This is a scary thing, and our fear of rejection can drive us away from this all important moment. It can drive us inward for shelter by directing our attention to budgets, timelines, status reports, and other typical indicators of project success that are safely within our control.
But to be bold, innovative, build the best, and build what’s right for the customer, we have to get beyond fear and ego. We must RACE to the customer as quickly as possible, learn with open minds, and detach ourselves from our own opinions and biases.
This is why establishing customer interviews as the FIRST step is critical in vetting an idea. Do it early, and your idea hasn’t grabbed hold of you so tightly that your ego refuses to listen to anyone but you. Now, you have a chance to learn with an open mind and pivot when you need to pivot.
This project was a simple story. We had a direction. Then we interviewed 12 people, one by one, and that direction changed. The data was obvious, and there was no convincing, grandstanding or power plays to save the original thought. No one clung to the initial idea because no one had staked their reputation on it.
Pivoting, in this case happened effortlessly, as it should.
This is in stark contrast to how a lot of software is done. Many times, there is an idea, vendors are selected to bid, and quotes come in. A decision is made, and the project starts. A solution is built and the vendor does a great job, everything is on time, on budget and everyone is happy with the product. But then the customer sees it for the first time, and they just don’t care.
With customer interviews, this played out story can be avoided.
Thankfully for our client, it was. Their story is a positive one, and a reminder of why we have embraced a Lean Approach to developing software products. A reminder to the critical importance of being incredibly hands on with the customer from the start, and why the brightest minds, ideas, and innovations can always benefit from a dose of customer voice.