Customers that bypass products

The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.”
John Russell

I’ve noticed something curious with a few of the OSS products I’ve worked with. The customers use the products for one of their functions (eg as a database of records) but not for other key functions (eg design activities). Sometimes the vendors are blissfully unaware.

This usually comes about because the customers’ operators have found more efficient ways of getting tasks done. But they have usually only resorted to looking for work-arounds because of frustration with the existing tools.

This makes the product more susceptible to being replaced, not to mention leaving a negative impression in customer’s eyes.

If you’re responsible for getting OSS into the hands of customers do you ever sit with those customers from end-to-end through their workflows? And by E2E, I include sub-contractors and third parties because sometimes it’s these entities (eg design partners) that find more efficient approaches.

If you find out that customers are using workarounds then it might be time for a product re-design.

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5 Responses

  1. Hi Ryan,
    Perhaps what you’re leading towards is whether this effect could be actively scored somehow by OSS vendors a la Net Promoter Score, as a concrete way to attempt to understand underlying factors & improve NPS / Customer Success Management across an entire install base?

  2. Hi Evan,

    Hmmmmm…. Very interesting concept. I like it!

    I was originally thinking that the human interaction with the customer (E2E) could prove invaluable for the insights. You may also recall a post from a while back that looked at how a vendor / solution could potentially self-diagnose (

    But your NPS-equivalent concept could be a great one, particularly for helping customers to select a new product vendor!!

  3. Hi Ryan,
    Yes the rest of the world seems to have dived headlong into behaviour tracking, why not OSS! Thanks for mentioning your previous post, that covers this area well!

  4. It would seem sensible to also build in some usage data capture… But in pretty much every OSS contract I’ve seen the vendor must not enable the system to ‘call home’. I appreciate the security concerns of the CSPs but also that kinda shoots them in the foot in the long run as it blocks the availability of very useful product feedback.

    As things become more cloud-managed and delivered as SaaS, that situation should change. But OSS is way behind the curve in this area.

  5. Hi James,

    So true on all your points. Great supplementary notes to the article.

    I have a couple of slight twists to add:
    – You’re right that it’s almost 100% that don’t allow call home functionality, but I’ve found it’s about 50:50 who allow remote connectivity for support purposes
    – The data doesn’t have to be streaming via a call home channel, but can just be collected as logs and observed during support calls (whether remote or on-site), whilst still maintaining a CSP’s need for security lock-down.

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