Service

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Article January 30th, 2024

by Thad Westhusing, Head of Product & CX, North America

Time-to-Value: Ensuring your digital product's success

It starts with good intentions. A company identifies a new customer or business opportunity then commits the necessary resources to build the supposedly “right” offering. Unfortunately, these efforts fail to deliver a product or service the customer wants and the business needs, proving once again that most new solutions come up short. In fact, it’s been estimated that up to 95% of all products fail (MIT). Why is there such a high failure rate for new products and services? Most often it’s due to an over-reliance on achieving predictable output i.e. prioritizing time-to-market, versus applying a concerted focus on delivering customer outcomes i.e. prioritizing time-to-value. 

This article is the first part of Nortal’s 3-part customer value series. To get an overview of all of the articles, read our introductory piece on “How to build products that customers want and businesses need.”  

Why does a time-to-market approach not work?

By focusing on a prescribed release date, teams regularly fall into the trap of immediately gathering feature requirements from internal stakeholders who serve as the anointed ‘voice of the customer’. Regrettably, many of these individuals rarely interact with end-users. Next, the captured requirements are transformed into user stories that are refined and prioritized for developers to build into specific features. Finally, the product or service is built, then tested against user acceptance criteria and released to achieve the deadline.  

When using this approach, often not a single real customer or end-user is involved in the product discovery or design process. That’s why this doesn’t work well – it relies on internal proxies who are usually incorrect in their assumptions about customers. Even worse, the criteria chosen to validate that a feature is acceptable to end-users relies on the same set of requirements prescribed by the ‘voice of the customer’ stakeholder – a classic case of circular reasoning. 

To summarize, there are three key deficiencies in relying on an output-driven, time-to-market approach: 

  1. It’s all done without understanding the outcomes a customer or end-user wants to achieve – the specific jobs to be done
  2. It doesn’t include the important step of identifying the problems or pain points that stand in the customer’s way of completing their task
  3. It overlooks the creative and innovative problemsolving required to test different concepts and validate a desirable, viable and feasible solution before it’s brought to market

At Nortal, we help clients reduce the risk of delivering products and services their customers don't want and their business doesn't need.

Through an outcome-driven and experience-led approach, our clients have adopted a proven, repeatable method that enables them to successfully deliver customer and business value. It requires ongoing interaction with both end-users and business stakeholders to ensure the customer experience being designed and developed will deliver on the outcomes and time-to-value required for success. 

What is needed to achieve quicker time-to-value?

Understanding the requirements for a specific feature or function is important when trying to define what needs to be built. Unfortunately, it’s done far too early in the product discovery and design process. Successful digital products require an early and ongoing focus on end-users to identify and solve the problems that stand in the way of customers achieving their outcomes. Success lies in solving customer problems not gathering feature requirements.  

Nortal recently worked with a large wholesale distribution company that wanted to generate more e-commerce sales by reinvigorating its mobile channel with modern capabilities, enabled by a new tech platform. Instead of starting with stakeholder requirements and feature backlogs, we helped our client engage current customers and partner stores to better understand the outcomes each group wanted to achieve. Along the way, we collaboratively explored the problems that stood in the way of accomplishing specific jobs to be done.  

Here are few simple but insightful questions we raised with real end-users: 

  1. The outcome: what is the job you are hoping to get done?
  2. The value: what is the result of getting the job done?
  3. The problem: what pain points stand in the way of getting the job done?

With these actionable insights, Nortal helped the client ideate potential solutions for the customer problems raised. We then prototyped specific end-user experiences that addressed high priority pain points, allowing customers to realize quicker time-to-value in the jobs they completed. Rather than starting with feature requirements, our client now has a customer-focused solution that was outcome-driven and experience-led.   

In addition to designing the new mobile solution for customer value and usability, we also assessed it for business viability and tech feasibility. Using the same approach, we explored what problems stood in the way of delivering the desired business outcomes. This helped our client identify the business functions i.e. sales, marketing, operations, and customer success, needed to support an improved mobile end-user experience. Improvements in customer time-to-value, sales and profits will follow. We then explored how these capabilities could be more effectively enabled through data, technology, people and processes – resulting in a new solution architecture for the mobile app. 

How can product teams adopt time-to-value approaches?

Old habits die hard. Unfortunately, many companies continue to develop new digital products through stakeholder-focused and requirements-led efforts. While these approaches might offer comfort in predicting when the product is ready for launch, they carry a significant risk of building digital products and services that customers don’t want and the business doesn’t need. 

Rather than institute sweeping changes to your product development efforts, we recommend experimenting with a few outcome-driven and experience-led methods using the customer-focused principles described above. For example, the next time you have a new product or feature to build, try the following steps: 

  1. Conduct 1:1 research interviews with a select group of real customers
  2. Ask end-users about their outcomes to achieve and the problems that stand in their way
  3. Test different concepts with end-users and then prototype and validate a solution that enables customers to realize quicker time-to-value
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Read on in our Customer Value series

Nortal’s global Product & Customer Experience team have crafted a 3-part series on how to create products customers want and your business needs. To read on to the next part of the series, click below.

Fix these two common product team problems to boost your impact
Pointing on the computer screen

Want to discuss more? 

Nortal can help your teams adopt and apply the right steps to improve customer time-to-value. To learn more about our value-focused methodology or to schedule a free consultation with one of our product experts, please get in touch below.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation

Thad Westhusing

Head of Product & CX, North America

Thad leads Nortal's Product & Customer Experience team in North America, where he specializes in bringing business and technology stakeholders together to create seamless growth strategies that are customer-focused and outcome-driven. He has over 25 years of product strategy-to-execution experience leading product teams and coaching product leaders at Fortune 100 companies.

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