“Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants. If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work and serve the customer!”
As President of Sikorsky Aircraft, Gene Buckley knows a bit about servicing a specialised field with knowledgeable customers, just like the OSS industry.
There are a couple of interesting side notes to his quote above though:
- If you’re buying COTS (Commercial Off-The Shelf) OSS software, then you’re somewhat constrained by what the COTS vendors can deliver to you
- A customer doesn’t always know what they want
So if you’re a COTS vendor the following points seem obvious but are surprisingly uncommon in our industry:
- Make the effort to test/survey what your customers need rather than have your product developers telling them. [You may also need to develop a delivery model that supports customisations to suit specific customers, even if you stay steadfast to your core product’s chosen direction (ie open interfaces to allow non-core customisations)]
- Help the customer to understand what they want rather than getting frustrated with their lack of direction / vision