What the Customer really needed ..
(This post is also available in a Swedish version, from the Enfo blog @ enfo.se/om/media/blogg/)
Working with technology on a daily basis carries the risk of aligning ones thinking with the rather square and binary conditions applying to the way technological solutions are developed – does variable x equal value z (true/false), is version a compatible with platform z, do the stated conditions fulfil the requirements (Yes/No) etc.
When transferred to the realm of day to day business operations this perhaps accurate but somewhat two-dimensional perspective needs to be expanded to match the real-life requirements of the challenges of delivering value in our Customers’ business.
In the end, it’s the difference we can make for our Customers end-Customer – the end of the value chain - that really counts. Better value, lower cost, improved quality, raised service levels – the classic hallmarks of successfully applying technology craftsmanship to business improvement. With that as a starting point however, another level of complexity is added – it’s not enough to understand what our main counterpart – the purchaser, the requirement owner – say they need and want us to deliver. We need to understand how our Customer works to fulfil their Customer expectations, to create and deliver value.
Our ever-increasingly complex world of tailor-made services, bespoke supply chains and specialized areas of expertise enable tremendous levels of flexibility, but tends to break up reality into individual frames of reference we understand individually, but carries a slight distortion through each layer when it comes to explaining what better Customer value – or business requirements – really means. From the consumer, all throughout the value-chain, to – in this case – us, as the supplier. Just like Chinese whispers ..
There’s a very striking – well- known and -circulated on the internet - illustration of the innate challenge in successfully communicating actual requirements between different roles and perspectives within a business, “What the Customer really wanted ..”.
Working with Process Innovation and Project Management, I believe in striving to take a holistic approach to help Customers cover an extra perspective or two, in their role as purchasers, requirement owners, or change leaders in IT implementation projects in their business. We all have our own unique set of experiences and understanding for a particular situation – assets we can use to help each other understand and fill in the gaps of the picture we don’t see at first, and collaboratively identify what the Customer really needs. At Enfo, our established framework for working with an EnterpriseArchitecture, or an Information Competency Center, are great examples of how this approach can be applied practically in real-life Customer projects.
As this rather infamous illustration of crossing human nature with the art of delivery vs expectations testifies, only attempting to circumvent such pitfalls does not always make it so – but the awareness of the inherent challenge we all face in the “Customer/supplier-relationships” around us, regardless of business type, can support us in avoiding a few more of them each time, and improving the business value delivered.
This helps us reaching further towards not only what the Customer wanted in the “one-to-one” customer-supplier relationship – but also in supporting our Customers in delivering what their own – colleagues as well as end-Customers – really wanted. To draw an analogy from age-old wisdom, - the Customer of my Customer is .. my Customer!