This is the third and final post in our three-part series that covered Stephen Denning’s Agile Laws. You can read the first part of the series here. In this post, we will be focusing on why customers are so important to organizations that are actually agile.
The Internet Changed Everything
A key tenet of the industrial revolution was maximize output to satisfy mass demand. With the advent of the the assembly line, customers had access to more products at reduced costs. Over time, goods became cheaper, and choices increased. Additionally, and over time, companies had to compete with international firms that could produce items at a fraction of the cost.
Then, the internet happened. The internet made the world smaller, markets bigger, and customers more knowledgeable. Truly, the maturation of the internet completed a paradigm shift placing customers in the epicenter of choice and power. If you didn’t like a particular company’s offering, the internet made finding a different source of goods much easier. Even traditional logistical barriers were overcome, allowing consumers more alternatives and choice in the market. If you didn’t like what your local store offered, you can find more products at a cheaper rate by other online retailers. And they would deliver it to your door! The internet placed an increase of power to the consumer that a lot of companies have yet to realize. Companies that have recognized this paradigm shift have found themselves trying to restructure and pivot to meet the customer’s need. Their answer is in business agility.
Customer First — Not Just a Slogan Now
Everyone in this modern age has heard the tired business slogans proclaiming the importance of the customer. But, truly agile companies have not only made this a slogan, but have incorporated it into their value proposition and corporate culture. They truly realize that they need to include their customers in feedback and learning to better deliver value and grow their customer base. They hold countless product tests, focus groups, and incorporate what they learn in an ever-iterating product.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at one of the oldest companies producing food products – Campbell’s soup. Were they a huge production juggernaut? Sure, but they’ve learned the importance of the customer and have adopted a focus on business agility. Even though their focus on agility is relatively new, they’ve already realized an increase in value to their customers. The increase in value has led to financial success and relevancy in competing with a global market. You can read more of their story here.
So, if a company that has been around for 150 years can find value in applying agility principles in their business model, why can’t you? Business agility is more than just something software companies do.
Discovering and Delivering Value
Rather then measuring yourself on how well you implement a possible agile framework, you should be asking how well your company delivers value to your customers. How often do you talk to your customers? Are you producing quickly iterated products to test with your customers for further feedback? Do you have a good read on what your customers have and what they want? Do you know how to get there?
If you can answer these questions, then you are in a good place to start or continue developing your agility.
Remember, the customer has already been placed in the epicenter of power. Have you recognized this paradigm-shift? It isn’t about doing the latest agile framework, they only exist to help you discover and deliver value. Often times, company that fail in their agile transition do so because they focus on process and tools over individuals and interactions. Don’t fall into the same trap! Start talking to your customers. Figure out how to measure their pain points, then fix them. Reduce the friction that customers have with your process, people, or product and you will be well on your way to enhancing value.
This is what the law of the customer is about. You are there to serve them; they aren’t there to provide for you. They’ve got options. Treat your one customer as if he or she is your only option.