I’m a strong proponent of engaging the customer in all stages of the design process. But sometimes you need to be careful with what they say and not always believe their first answer.
Ask the customer “what do you want” and the chances are you will get an answer that is rooted in their experiences and expectations. Not what they really want.
“I want an intranet portal“.
No, you don’t. You want a place where your employees can share files and documents.
“I want a google search appliance“.
No you don’t. You want to be able to find documents quickly and efficiently.
Worse is when vendors try and force products onto the customer…
“You want an integrated BI toolset“.
No they don’t. What they really want is to be able to pull some specific data from a legacy application into an excel spreadsheet and insert a graph into a word document.
OK, so it is easy to say that, but how to follow though? How do you actually get the customer to create a vision of what they really want? Well I’d start by not asking them that question. Get them to articulate what their goals are. Then try to understand in what context they will try to accomplish those goals? Think in terms of customer journeys and value outcomes over features. Think about the what, not the how. Start with the “to-be” vision rather than dwelling in the “as-is” quagmire, indeed use a system obituary to kill the as-is thinking. Use visual tools to model your ideas. And don’t get bogged down in detail.
I’ll write more about this in the future…