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Become your customers

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10/14/2010 11:12 AM EDT

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Saranyan
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re: Become your customers
Saranyan   10/28/2010 2:09:54 AM
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@sharps_eng - Imagine what would happen if all the AEs spend a day in the life of their customers as part of their weekly goals. :) Thanks for chipping in your thoughts. It was super fun to discuss.

sharps_eng
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re: Become your customers
sharps_eng   10/25/2010 9:59:43 PM
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A marketing trainer once suggested that I 'spend a day in the life of my customer'. I did exactly that, and after one day on a film-set I came away with what became a $2M product series. Not so easy to repeat, of course, but the raw input you get from watching people struggle with inadequate tools while actually they are trying get quite another job done - powerful stuff.

Saranyan
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re: Become your customers
Saranyan   10/21/2010 1:52:20 PM
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Hi @sharps_eng- Your analogy is quite spot on and so is your example of user-interface. Normally, when a company is at a launch stage, the first few customers inevitably shape the product. Then, like you said, the customer base grows and companies start extrapolating the customer needs instead of actually repeating their initial customer identification process. Part of the reason is that, it is quite hard and at times impossible to talk to every customer group who will use the product (windows is a good example). However, the problems comes when the extrapolation is based on market observations and trends and partially reliable usage data. When their calculated product guess is accurate, then they might drive new customer behavior and the products drive the need of the customers and not the other way round. However, in the semi-conductor (and EDA) industry, this rarely happens. The market research information is incomplete because it does not really capture some hard to quantify, but super-important data like usage patterns in an organization, process flow, customer's mental models about the product,etc. Hence the product that is designed out of incomplete (or worse, inaccurate) data. This creates a chasm between what the customers think the product should do vs. what does it actually does. This gap widens for ever. -Saranyan

sharps_eng
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re: Become your customers
sharps_eng   10/20/2010 8:47:16 PM
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Hi @Saranyan: Thanks for the ack :-) 'only customer integrated product development practices can fill in the missing holes'; would you translate please? Are you talking about the ecology that forms around flawed products like W*ndows? My analogy is the village blacksmith, who would fettle a tool for a local craftsman, until it was 'just right' for him. This tool would be copied for a tool catalog and mass-produced, sold to all sorts of people worldwide who would be disapointed to find that the tool they received didn't fit, didn't work in any way they could relate to. Until you have made and improved a hand-tool with your own hands, you can't understand what efficiency gains can be made by such personalisation. Actually, on reflection, user-interface customisation comes a close second, I must say...

Saranyan
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re: Become your customers
Saranyan   10/17/2010 5:42:34 AM
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Hi @sharps_eng - Yeah, you have touched an important aspect of workflow and time. That is why, I think that it is important to change our product design practices. One thing I always think about is that application engineers can move from being support guys to working with engineers/companies as consulting employees. That way they get to "participate" in core engineering work and understand how things are done and derive insights about actual needs. If a new entrepreneur is venturing out in this (or any) area, then they can identify a customer and work closely with them to identify a product need before even designing a product. While it is true that great products are result of visionary entrepreneurs, only customer integrated product development practices can fill in the missing holes after a product has been launched. The product ecology will create new needs that will eventually turn into gaping holes if we don't do that. Your last point about "potential rivals" is an interesting one. That brings me to another question - how much should we collaborate before we get competitive? We need to value collaborative advantages over competitive advantages too. Let me brew over this thought for a bit and I will get back to you. Thanks for chipping in! :) -Saranyan

sharps_eng
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re: Become your customers
sharps_eng   10/16/2010 10:21:36 PM
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@Saranyan - Hi, nice to read some deep thoughts here. I have a parallel mission; how to get any 'user group' to take responsibility for the design of their tools. Who else can possibly know what their tools should be like? But believe me, corralling a group of busy folk (in any sector) and getting them to take time out to even think about their ideal tools is tough, let alone getting them to fund development and actually buy the end result. But that is the only way forward, otherwise astute entrepreneurs from other areas will, almost as predators, descend on this visualisation vacuum and fill it with 'tools' that can at best be only a guess and at worst, not so effective as the tools they replace. I think one key is that 'busy' factor; plus the fact that other members of the same group are potential rivals. That may explain why the medical world often manages to make custom tools 'by committee' but engineers don't even get to first base. There may be another psychological element; a known characteristic of those with borderline ADHD is to labour on with indequate facilities, beyond the point of common-sense. Their ability to hyper-focus can also make some great engineers...

Saranyan
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re: Become your customers
Saranyan   10/16/2010 1:55:33 PM
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Hi @IqbalSingh, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the problem is multidimensional. But, I think an effort should be made to integrate with the customers who are sub-publics. Also, the roles of Application Engineers should change from pure support to needs identification and research. -Saranyan

IqbalSingh.Josan
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re: Become your customers
IqbalSingh.Josan   10/14/2010 6:42:51 PM
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This is an interesting article that shows how customer emphasis could lead to better products that are tuned to specific needs of a "sub-public". Here, it may be noted that the requirements of a "sub-public" may be changing with time, due to complex interplay of overall industry trends, or even due to lack of clarity at the outset. Often, it may not be possible to freeze the complete requirements of a "sub-public" at the initial stage of a product development cycle. Several iterations of the product may be needed over time to fine tune the final set of requirements. So, the problem is really multidimensional, with the requirements changing across different "sub-publics" and also changing over time in a "sub-public". Visit us at uspurtek.com

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