Archive for November, 2010
When a company starts getting past the startup stage, what happens to customer identification? As the number of customers increase, it becomes challenging to base the product on exactly what the customers want because the company gets pulled in all directions by different customers. The natural course of action for a company is to base its products on an extrapolation of market observations. The challenge to satisfying multiple customers is broken into a manageable problem of satisfying market needs. But, how successful are companies in identifying the market needs accurately? How can companies ensure that the market represents their customers?
In general, this process of identifying customer needs through observing the market seems very ill structured as per Herb Simon’s definition of ill structured problems. In ill structured problems, arriving at an absolute solution is almost impossible. There is no clear way to identify the needs of all the customers. Hence, there is no guarantee that the outcome will be the best. I believe that the best ways to solve ill structured problems are when we try to define their structure as much as possible using constraints. What constraints would make a product design process well defined?
When a company’s product design practices are not based on market trends, that would help a lot in removing a moving target. A constraint that can be imposed on product design practices are to stay true to the culture and core values of the company irrespective of that the customers demand. Every product is a function of people and culture and as long as companies stay true to this principle, their products take a predictable and successful course.
(Blog entry also published on PDMA)