Customer-Connected Development

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“Life is for service.” – Fred Rogers

Customer- Connected Development is used by many people across the world to engage with the customers throughout the life cycle.

I have also personally used Customer- Connected Development across my various teams so they can connect with the customer more easily. 

Customer- Connected Development means that you should include or take an opinion of your customer during planning, development, and when you are about to release the deliveries. In simple words Customer- Connected Development is to include your customer in the product and product cycle.

Key Activities of Customer-Connected Development

The following table shows the overlay of Customer- Connected Development practices:

  CORE CUSTOMER CONNECTED DEVELOPMENT
Exploration
  • GO/ NO GO
  • Business Case
  • Product Backlog
  • Release Planning
  • Team/ Role Assignment
  • Vision/ Scope
  • Broad Customer Survey
  • Customer Advisory Broad Setup
  • Stories/ Scenarios
  • Prioritization
iteration 0
  • Clarification of process
  • Clarification of responsibility
  • Infrastructure Setup
Iteration N
  • Iteration planning
  • Daily Stand-Up
  • Mid-iteration Checkpoint
  • Review
  • Retrospective
  • Internal Release (Optional)
  • Customer Release (optional)
  • Stories / Scenarios
  • Prioritization
  • Demos
  • Product Drops
  • Feedback
Stabilization(optional)
  • Remaining Work Completed
  • Outstanding Bugs Resolved
Release (Optional)
  • Documentation Updates
  • Incomplete Stories Removed
  • Final Test
  • Remaining Bugs Resolved
  • Release Bar Met
  • Feedback
Her is a summary of the table that is shown above:
  • Customer Advisory Board. This board includes people that act as a sounding board, for the project that you are working on.
  • Stories / Scenarios. When a customer comes with a project, they share their stories and scenarios with you. These stories and scenarios are then narrated down. These stores and scenarios then later help you to show requirements in context.
  • Prioritization. Clients help organize by giving a contribution to the item build-up, the run accumulations, and cycle arranging meetings.
  • Feedback. Clients give feedback during cycles and to deliver.

Guiding Principles

The best way to adopt the practice successfully is to focus on the principles. Principles help you a lot epically by following the when you are following principles you can avoid getting stuck when you are implementing the details. An implementation may vary from project to project but here are some of the concepts that will remain the same throughout the projects.

Here are a few standards I’ve found to improve Customer Connected Development:

  1. Set the frame. A frame is how you look at things. You need to frame the discussion and create something that people can react to. The more thoughtful the frame, the higher the quality feedback you get. You create the frame by figuring out the customers, their needs, and the business goals. You use the frame to help focus feedback and dialogue. For example, one frame could be an architectural overview. Another frame can be your product backlog.
  2. Shared problems. The customers you select for the Customer Advisory Board need to have first-hand experience with the problem. They need to care and be involved in the solution.
  3. Have an opinion. Without an opinion, you’ll get randomized. Have an opinion so you can rationalize the feedback and priorities from various customers. Each customer will be coming from different perspectives. It’s your job to frame the feedback and understand the perspectives. You should also know your own assumptions. When people challenge your assumptions, you understand why you are changing your opinion. For example, you might have an idea on a user experience. Your customers then provide their reaction, which leads to you revising your design.
  4. Synthesize the feedback. Step back and look across the scenarios and requirements. Look for common denominators. Prioritize across your highest ROI items.
  5. Scenarios are King. Scenarios are the backbone of Customer Connected Engineering. The end-to-end scenarios are one of the most important outcomes. It’s one thing to look at a list of scenarios in a document. It’s another to walk through stories and scenarios with customers. Customers can share their goals and their stories in detail. We suggest having a set of straw man scenarios, before you engage with the advisory board.
  6. Transparency. Transparency is letting customers see inside your process to understand how things work. It’s sharing your decision making approach so that customers understand how trade-offs are made. It’s also about sharing design goals as you know them. It’s also about making customers aware of important changes along the way, instead of at the very end when you ship. It’s opening up the door to the workshop and letting customers watch and participate as you build your deliverables. When they understand why you made a decision / tradeoff, you are more likely to have a satisfied customer, even if they disagreed with a specific decision.
  7. Incremental value. Find a way to flow value. As the project progresses, customers should get a sense that you are delivering value along the way.
  8. Fail early, fail often. Share releases with your customers so they can share feedback. You don’t want to be surprised when you’re ready to ship. Share early and share often. Use the feedback to improve.
  9. Timely feedback. A big benefit of Customer Connected Engineering is timely feedback.
  10. Stay flexible. Be responsive to feedback. Acting on feedback will show customers you value their input and that it makes a difference. The more they see the impact, the more they’ll engage.
  11. Real world solutions. If you have a working implementation, you have a significant starting point. Where you can, find examples of specific customer solutions that solve some of the same scenarios and challenge you are facing. For example, to speed up your success, rather than chase your competition, you can look to working solutions.

Whiteboard Notes on Customer-Connected Development

Here are some of the quick whiteboard notes on customer connected Development

  • We engage customers early and throughout the process.
  • Customer Advisory Board influences what we ship.
  • Customers help us ship better products that meet their needs

Key Activities

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Why Customer Connected Development

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Customer Advisory Board Selectiimage

Stories and Scenarios with Customer-Connected Development

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Prioritization with Customer-Connected Development

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Guiding Principles

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Principle #1 – Set the Frame

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Principle #2 – Shared Principles

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Principle #3 – Have an Opinion

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Principle #4 – Synthesize the Feedback

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Principle #5 – Scenarios are King

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Principle #6 – Transparency

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Principle #7 – Incremental Value

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Principle #8 – Fail Early, Fail Often

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Principle #9 – Timely Feedback

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Principle #10 – Stay Flexible

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Principle #11 – Real World Solutions

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Are You Doing Customer-Connected Development?

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Getting Started with Customer-Connected Development

  1. Create a Customer-Advisory Board
  2. Identify Customer-Connected Development activities in your product cycle
  3. Test Customer-Connected Development, learn and respond.

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