The best way to know your customers is to introduce key metrics in your product. Robin Morero tells more about the concept metrics-driven development and the benefits it gives to the product development process and the customers.
Meetup about metrics-driven development
At Pagero, we frequently host the Gothenburg Tech Radar Meetup. This is an initiative to explore emerging technology, share ideas and network. We do not stick to a single technology or topic. Instead, we try to explore technologies and ideas that pop up in our development teams. And by the way – everyone is invited.
A couple of weeks ago, we invited Annika Gunnarsson and Erika Gustavsson to speak about metrics-driven development. They were joined by our own Kristofer Jarl. They all share a common passion: focusing on customer value in the product development process. Why did we invite them? Simple. We plan to steal their magic recipe.
To give you a brief idea of what they talked about, let’s introduce our villain: Vilfredo Pareto.
Vilfredo Pareto – the elephant’s worst enemy?
“If your ark is about to sink, look for the elephants first.”
The quote above is attributed to Italian multi-disciplinary talent Vilfredo Pareto. Did he really hate all pachyderms? Possibly, but that’s not why he targets them. If you have two elephants aboard your sinking ship, throwing a squirrel overboard won’t make much of a difference.
As it turns out, this is valid in many areas; a small percentage of the effort will make all the difference. In product development in particular, his principles are extraordinarily useful.
“If you have elephants aboard your sinking ship, throwing a squirrel overboard won’t make much of a difference.”
The Pareto principle, also known as the 80:20 rule, states that “80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.” In software, some studies indicate that it is closer to 90/10. Does this mean that we can produce more value by delivering less code? Indeed, we mean to try.
Have you heard of the Pixar Pitch? Let’s use that to illustrate a practical example.
The rise and fall of a company
Once upon a time
Once upon a time, a massive company set out to produce the greatest software product in the world. It was going to be so very great. And huge… Every day, the stakeholders came up with brilliant new ideas. They introduced more and more requirements, each more complex than the rest. The developers gradually became more sceptical and eventually miserable, but they did their best to deliver.
Then suddenly one customer said:
This is not what we wanted!
And why is it so expensive?
Eventually, all the customers left, and the product slowly fell into oblivion. In turn, the company was forced to downsize. People of all different professions were turned out and forced to feed on old printouts. The almost forgotten product was eventually found in an old repository covered in spider webs. The company was just clinging to life and now offered the product for a fraction of the charge.
On a slow day, Kelsey – the hero – started looking at how the customers were actually using the product. His discovery was surprising. They were really only using a simple, isolated part of it. Kelsey spoke to Jessie – the last developer left in the company – and she swiftly removed all the unused features. The product emerged cleaner and more responsive. After a quick CSS overhaul, it was even prettier than the competition.
“Success can be contagious. Know your customers, and care about them. If they prosper, you will too.”
Now, every day, there is a morning meeting over coffee. Employees of all professions look at key metrics and discuss customer cases. The purpose is obvious, and the process transparent. This in turn makes the employees more engaged and committed to customer value. They constantly innovate and improve their product – and the customers are happy.
The moral of the story: know your customers
The best way to know your customers is to introduce key metrics in your product. If you combine this with behavioural analysis, you will gain remarkable insights, help your customers, and increase profit. But beware: you need to do this without invading privacy.
So how might this look in practice? These – fictional – cases might give you some idea.
How many of your potential customers failed to register?
Of these, how many provided an invalid email address?
Is there perhaps a bug in the email validation?
How many of your customers are clicking “Export to Microsoft Works”?
Does that make sense?
Why do they all use Firefox?
Why is the font for “Export to Word” in Internet Explorer so small?
Why are so many people suddenly ordering floppy disks?
Success can be contagious. Know your customers, and care about them. If they prosper, you will too.
Meet the speakers
Annika Gunnarsson, Erika Gustavsson and their development teams are the main advocates of the metrics-driven development process at one of Sweden’s major telecom operators. Their results are astounding. Through small efforts, they have managed to turn a negative trend into a positive, multiply their effective output, and not least – generate a common engagement around customer value.
Kristofer Jarl is not only one of our top developers. He is also our main advocate for Lean principles and metrics-driven development. He effectively balances functional programming with behavioural economics while playing guitar.