The Distant Voice of the Customer

My current project (full time) has been challenging  – its so different from what I’ve done in the past that its taken me a while to get grounded, identify the key challenges and plan of attack. I’m working with enterprise software.

Now this particular software, digital asset management software, is powerful stuff – to the point of the near magical. It – when properly applied – powers creativity, collaboration and distribution of some of the worlds most interesting and valuable rich media.

But its enterprise software, which, I’m coming to understand, means that it must also be somewhat of a chameleon. It gets customized, enhanced, and integrated in nearly every installation. And the customer list reads like a who’s who of several media-intensive industries.

So – as a new leader for this product, there are several huge challenges that make it very different from the consumer software I’ve lived with.

First – the value proposition. Its a rare consumer company that can spit out its value proposition cleanly at any given time. (Course, think of the ones who actually can – google, intuit, ebay – notice anything?).  For a highly customizable giant of enterprise software, well, they certainly don’t have any less of a challenge there.

Second – the voice of the customer. Enterprise products are not sold to an individual, but to a committee, and not to the end users, but to someone who has various motivations, hopefully one of which is to enable those end users to do something, better.

So – the voice of the customer – which I’ve gotten pretty good at seeking out in the consumer world is now in a different place. And I’m trying to chase it down. I’m starting with customer visits – but frequently you meet with the IT folks responsible for implementing the solution – not with the people who feel the need, or the people who will be using it.

The team is all in agreement about the need to find the voice – and is pursuing several ways of getting there (hey – you heard of this web 2.0 thing? its pretty cool, and fortunately, they have).   I’m not sure how the company will feel about it, but I think that the pursuit of this voice is important, and I hope to document how we get closer to it, and how that intimacy changes things.

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