The business value of emotional requirements

Whilst languishes in yesteryear, it’s transatlantic cousin has gone all web 2.0. They’ve also introduced some new features, the ability for customers to associate and share their photos with products they have bought. For example for an ipod nano people have uploaded images that graphically illustrate how small the nano really is. Cool stuff. But I have a question. Where is the business value in this feature?

Agile is all about delivering business value. Business value can be crudely decomposed into four reasons why we do things:

  • To reduce cost
  • To increase revenue
  • Because of reguatory or compliance pressures
  • For altruistic reasons (such as giving something back to the community / imrpove emloyee morale etc)

Features that do not address these business objectives (and more often than not just the first two objectives) will be deemed low priority (if ever considered in the first place) and typically fall by the wayside. Which makes me wonder how Amazon get away with it. What is this business case for “Customer Images”? What business metric will they look to that will demonstrate the features success in driving revenue? I’m sure some obscure derrived metric could be arrived at – but I would guess that the key driver for this functionality is an extension of the brand. There is no monetry reason for the feature, it is just a right cultural fit with the overall product. It is about developing an emotional engagement with the customer that is beyond the purely functional (browse – buy).

As agile practitioners we capture stories. During the process we will also capture “non-functional” stories. (some would add “technical” stories to these). I’d argue we need to add a new category of story – the emotional requirement – how do we want our users to feel about our product? Such stories will enable us to build software that goes beyond the strictly functional and begin to engage. They will help us temper the cold business objectives that focus upon getting things done, with the softer intangible / aesthetic quality of the applicaiton that will keep the user coming back again and again. Come to think about it, there’s the business case for “Customer Images”. Building a better relationship with our customers to increase customer purchasing and reduce customer attrition. Now why don’t other businesses think like that.


  1. Martin Lloyd · Monday, 12 June, 2006

    Brand / marketing driven companies will go for this. Virgin will always look for a way to make their experiences feel young, innovative and disruptive. The final end value of this is their brand value – but tying small features or things like the tone of copywriting through to a final $ figure is extremely difficult. What’s it worth to Virgin Atlantic to feel ‘younger’ than British Airways?

    For these particular features I’d suggest Amazon would be looking for value to be reflected in ‘return visitor’ figures or some measure of customer loyalty. If a customer who has uploaded a photo becomes x% less likely to shop elsewhere then there’s a direct bottom line impact.

    I’m not sure you need a new kind of story for this – just a more holistic means of measuring value.

  2. dancingmango » It’s not *all* about business value · Friday, 16 June, 2006

    […] Where is the business value in “log in”? It’s not driving revenue or reducing costs. You can’t place any monetary value on it. How about the emotional requirements that will create a buzz amoungst your consumers? Don’t have the compliance guys in the prioritisation workshop and no-one in the business is going to put auditing in their “must haves”. Yet these are show-stoppers. […]

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