Balance Product Perfection to Product Need

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Balance, life is all about balance.balance

When it comes to consumer products, there seems to be 3 stakeholders that might feel differently about a product or service. In the end they must all be satisfied or the product, and maybe even the organization may fail.

Engineers View:

Engineers want to do a good job, they want to develop cool stuff, and in the end they really want to engineer things. This is good in order to bring innovation into your products for a competitive edge, however engineers typically need to be kept in check for a number of reasons. First, engineers like to engineer, which may or may not be inline with what customers are willing to buy. Engineers are a geeky type, and can enjoy complexity and focus in a product, whereas customers may be interested in a product that only does XYZ, and does it with ease. How many of you know programmers that talk at-length about some Linux code routine that they have been working on at home in their mad-scientist lair? While it may be super-cool, most of us just want to boot up our computer and have it work, not really caring what is under the hood.

Engineers may also tend to over engineer and re-engineer projects as they find new solutions or ways of doing things. Reevaluation of designs and adjustments are a good thing and an expected part of the design cycle, however it can lead to a variety of issues including feature creep or loss of the original target. Sometimes in the product development cycle it must be determined that the product is ‘good enough’, not perfect, but ‘good enough’ to meet or exceed the customers’ expectations.

Corporations View:

Face it, a Corporation exists to pool resources and provide a product or service solution to fit a consumer need. At the heart of all this is the need to earn a profit in order to be sustainable, reinvest in the products and provide returns to investors. Without turning a profit, the corporation will fail. The corporation’s view of product design is that it has to be ‘good enough’ to meet or exceed customer expectations, be inexpensive enough to maintain an appropriate level of margin, and focused and strategic to meet current and future customer demands.

The corporation must provide the appropriate guidance to the product development teams to develop the right goods and services. In return, the business expect the development to be completed and ready for market as quickly as possible, since every day of delay is a large hit to revenue. This is at odds with the engineers view that always wants more time to perfect the design.

Unfortunately this has been a consistent source of internal friction in every organization I have been in contact with. The business says push-push-push, the engineers say ‘stop pushing, you will get a poor product’. It is all about Balance.

Customers View:

Simply put, the customer wants what he wants, when he wants it for what he wants to pay for it. The customer is king, and both the engineers and the business unit are trying to satisfy the customer wants. The customer expects his purchased product to meet or exceed his expectations, if it does he will buy again and tell his friends. The customer typically wants his product to work well, be simple to operate, be durable and long lasting, and recently he also wants his product to be recyclable or hold some sort of residual value.

Customers also expect a good level of value from their purchase, this does not necessarily mean they want a ‘cheap’ product, but rather a product that is priced appropriate to the level of function and expected quality. Lately, customers also expect a level of ‘feel good’ from their purchases as well, meaning the producing organization should practice some level or Corporate Social Responsibility through environmental practices or giving back to the community.

I will say it again, life is all about balance, and product design is no different. It seems easy for the stakeholders in the process to become misaligned, which will ultimately lead to a market failure.

What was the last product you bought that you were not happy with? Was it over engineered and too complicated to use, or under engineered and not worth the asking price?

Please leave a comment.

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