One of the (potential) downsides of technological innovation is the ever-increasing speed of change. It seems that every week brings a new update, patch or terms agreement. Businesses and their IT departments are forced to constantly evaluate and adapt to a changing landscape, weighing the pros and cons between the latest-and-greatest software versus sticking with existing legacy systems.
But is this speed something that the customer wants, or is it merely companies trying to out-do each other on the battlefield of technological innovation? In other words, are we out-pacing the customer in the pursuit of competitive advantage?
Better to be first or best?
PGi’s CEO Boland Jones recently pointed out that the customer is never moving as quickly as the technology. Striving to be innovative is lost on them if we’re not making it a priority to advance our products in a way that actually benefits our customers in meaningful way. When developing software is your lifeblood, it’s easy to get wrapped up and excited about the cutting-edge features and functionality your product teams are salivating to add to your product. But if we overwhelm the customer with too much innovation too quickly, that new feature can easily turn into an exercise in frustration. And frustration can turn into a customer exploring alternatives.
It’s about identifying needs and pushing innovation to fill the gaps in the user experience. It’s not always about being the first to do something. Sometimes being best is better than being first (Apple, anyone?).
As providers of technology and software, there’s a delicate balance to strike. We as businesses and technology providers should take a step back and make sure that everything we’re doing ties back to creating the best user experience possible for the people loyal enough to choose our products to use in their day-to-day lives.
Focus on feeling, not features
Your focus can’t solely be on features. You have to ask yourself an important question” “How do I want an individual to feel when they’re using my product?” That has to be an integral part of your product design team’s mantra. It’s not a one-time type of question; you have to continue to ask it throughout a product’s life cycle. The feeling a customer gets, the tangible benefits that they enjoy as a result of your innovations—that’s what will separate your business from the rest of the pack. It’s not about what technology, it’s about what you’re enabling with technology.
By building a foundation of innovative technology on user-centric design principles, you create an overall shift in the entire technology marketplace. Your designs still have to be intuitive, but also honest and from the heart, direct to your consumer. Even if you’re a B2B company, your product will eventually be used by a person, not a committee or department. And so you still have to ask that question, “How do I want that person to feel?”
You won’t ever please everyone, but if you keep a user-centric mindset, you’ll always be setting yourself apart.
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