We’re not competitor-obsessed, we’re customer-obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.
– Jeff Bezos
The first series of posts (Introductory Series) have covered a basic model and framework for succeeding as a software organization. The primary conclusion out of this was two-fold: 1) You need to have a high quality at each stage of the development process or there is no sense in going to the next stage, and 2) anything that is not visible to the Customer is not that important (keeping in mind that “visible” includes things like performance and reliability, which technically aren’t visible in the physical sense).
The next logical question for a development organization to ask is “How do we know whether we are doing a good job of each stage”. The answer is easy, although the work to answer it is hard. In fact, let me simplify the question to ask, “How do we know whether we are doing a good job Stages 1 and 2 (i.e., Understanding the Customer)?”. The answer has to do with how frequently you are interacting with real Customers. You can get an initial answer based on the following quick survey:
- Do you have regular access to real Customers? (not necessarily all Customers, but a representative group)
- How frequently do you meet with them?
- How do you document what your real users do?
- What are the top 10 needs (prioritized) across your Customer base?
- How do you know?
- How do you document those needs?
- How often do you review requirements with Customers
- How do you do that?
- How do you document these discussions?
- How often do you show your progress to your Customers?
The beauty of this survey is that (for now) there is no scoring system. If you struggled to fill in a lot of these answers, you are not customer-focused enough. I will present a fuller and properly scored survey later so that you can use it as a baseline and to measure future progress. For the next few posts, I want to talk about how you can better understand each customer, which is the best way to understand your Customers as a group .
This post is based on or excerpted from the upcoming book “De-Engineering the Corporation” by Darryl Ricker
 I’m assuming here something like Enterprise software where you know your actual Customers. Larger scale software doesn’t change a whole lot other than the requirement to know ALL your Customers.