Sunday, August 4, 2013

Enterprise Customer Feedback : Lost Horizon or Last Horizon ?


Are your enterprise customers giving you the feedback when your engineering team wants it or do you lose your delivery heartbeats with late or non existent customer feedback ? To explore this further, let's rewind while fast forwarding a little.

Today the future of Business and IT is to GO Digital, with an increased need for the CMO and CIO to coordinate and deliver value to their stakeholders. But the 2013 Gartner study for CIO's indicates that this customer value delivery gap is still a major challenge with "the vast majority of IT organizations need to address fundamental gaps in their performance".

Thought it appears that the IT world has in the last decade or so made some progress with this metric of delivering customer value, (quote below) and have started to learn and some are now able to Build-IT-RIGHT now unlike the past, but still there is a long way to go....(68% still feel that customer value is not delivered by IT)

32% of the respondents felt that delivering customer value was most valued by their organization’s executives for the delivery of Scrum-based projects 
Source: State of Scrum 2013, Scrum Alliance

This intense focus on the ability to Build-IT-RIGHT is primarily thanks to the force of iterative agile delivery model with short iterations combined with some XP practices of pair programming, test driven development, and continuous delivery (including continuous integration and continuous deployment) .

But Build-IT-RIGHT assumes that the "closed loop" will always have a customer onsite, ready to provide instant feedback and ignores the dark reality of the real world scenarios. But in my experience most IT teams implementing agile methodologies today face one or more of these situations :
  1. No colocated Customer with the IT team
  2. No colocated Customer representative with the IT team (Product Owners are just a bad substitute!)
  3. Customer feedback is non existent
  4. Customer feedback rarely  - once in a year via Customer Advisory Board or similar
  5. Customer feedback has long cycles typically more than 6 months 
The naysayers will indeed argue for the Cloud based application deployments which may be a rising trend with a tepid growth but the majority of the world is still run by enterprise applications hosted internally by the customer IT teams, and hence have a LOOONG phase gate approach to accepting new versions. The old IT world mindset still rules with mistrust and high risk as key factors for accepting the status-quo.

For the few lucky organizations, the new world mindset allows them to embrace the Lean Startup mode, with A/B tests as rapid feedback, Dual Scrum tracks and Continuous Delivery models. But this closing of the feedback loop is still a long way to go mainstream. Till then we are close to  there but still missing out on the Last Horizon to achieving IT and Business agility.

In Summary, with the IT teams as both a consumer and a provider of services to the business, this new mindset is an opportunity for the CIO's to conquer this LOST Horizon !

What's your experience on customer feedback (especially enterprise customers) ? Have you captured this LAST Horizon ? or are you losing the horizon ?

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