Customer focus is not equal market focus ?

Being a customer driven and customer oriented is very good. This approach allows you to meet your customer’s expectations. And what can be better than happy customer? 🙂 But there is a question: Is it enough only to meet the expectations?
Probably not. And my opinion is based on following reasons:
  • Fulfilling expectation often means that only current problems are being solved without considering general improvements or innovations
  • It might be difficult to be proactive for solution/service/software provider, since most of the time is spent on current problems
  • Customer requests might be very specific and as the result product might be useful only for the narrow market segment

We must listen and understand customer’s market in order to improve this and become proactive. In other words, meet the desires and the unrecognized needs of the customers, understand customers, and think ahead.

Agile product management helps you to combine you customer and market focus at the end of each iteration or release and make necessary adjustments to your road map with less negative impact to your goals. Let’s imagine two approaches: agile product management and waterfall product management

Waterfall product management

Assume that you decided to start working on you product in January. Of course you had a specific understanding level of your market, potential customers at that moment. You performed market analysis and elaborated requirements during next month and started development of your product. But as soon as you “fix” your requirements you lose your “connection” with the market. And the best thing that you might get at the end of your activity is to meet the expectations of your customer (not 100% :)), but definitely nothing more. So, you depend on your luck here 🙂

Agile product management

If we try to simulate the same project, but apply agile product management approach to it, we will notice that in this case we have more chance to achieve better results. Why?

It happens because you always share your results with your stakeholders. You stay tapped into your market and always rethink achieved results, gather feedback and apply changes according market changes. Another thing is that you provide solutions to existing problems early and get a chance to identify new and different ones. These periodic activities also allow you to gain better understanding of the domain (market/customer and etc) and provide better results in future.

What about real life sample? Well, imagine you develop several custom solutions to different customers. These solutions do pretty much the same thing. After another review (you have enough knowledge about this specific market at that moment) you might come up with two approaches:

  1. just implement another custom solution to new customer
  2. or start working on a common solution, which will meet the expectations of most of the customers and leave custom decisions only as special cases

So in this sample you had to stay customer focused while making a solution to a specific customer, but you must be market focused to make the second decision, since it allows you to attract more customers.

Customer focus is not equal market focus.