Are You Building What Your Customer Wants?

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Incompatible PlugInvestment in agriculture technology development has increased fivefold over the course of three years. According to AgFunder, a marketplace for companies to raise funds, $2.7 billion have been invested in 2015. However, the adoption has been slow. This is due to a several reasons. First, the new technologies don’t work well with existing equipment. Second, the solutions address problems that the farmers don’t have. Third, the new technologies are not easy to use. In other words, the technologies don’t pass the practicality test.

In developing your products, services, or applications for internal use, do you gather sufficient insight from your customer to ensure that you are building a worthwhile solution?

There are three questions you must ask.

  1. What is most important for their success?

The response to this question identifies the minimum requirement your solution must meet. You might be able to guess in generality. It is the customer who can describe the improvements they seek. He knows his priorities and what would make a difference. For instance, we know that an online store needs to have a good-looking site that is easy to navigate. The business owner would tell you that the navigation must allow zooming, with the flexibility to pull up several products for comparison purposes. This allows the online shoppers to peruse the choices without going back-and-forth between choices. The features are differentiators that make the shopping experience more efficient.

  1. How do they envision the perfect solution?

This is a broader question which requires the customer to consider the big picture and describe how things should work in the perfect world. He needs to describe the mechanics of the business model or the processes integral to the solution. If you were building the online store for the owner, he might envision the perfect store would present products by category, with a versatile search function to locate a product without having to drill down multiple layers, and inventory levels are real-time. Let the customer paint the picture for you so that you use that vision to expand the design and recommend additional capabilities.

  1. What constraints do they need to overcome?

Limited resources remind us of the constraints that every business faces. Every solution would need to integrate with the existing business model to some degree. For instance, the online store owner is not prepared to sunset the inventory system. This constraint places a requirement on the design of the online store. The developer needs to build an interface which allows pulling real-time inventory information. An understanding of the constraints further refines the solution and addresses practicality.

What you have in mind as a ‘better’ solution might not necessary align with what would be valued by your customers. So consult them before you start building.

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