New research method helps predict customers' wants
A new method for building customer models that show why technical features are important is being used by a Finland-based R&D firm for developing application software.
A new planning process, using critical success chains (CSC), aggregates the results of many individual interviews into what is important about a potential system: its features, the effects of those features and the value of those features. The models are then used to help executives and engineers of technology firms to come up with new ideas that the consumers actually want, and at the same time to avoid the situation in which a new idea looks great, it works well, but consumers don't want it.
Researchers Ken Peffers, of Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology, and Tuure Tuunanen, of Helsinki School of Economics, have been using CSC to help executives at Finland-based R&D firm, Digia, develop application software for wireless communication devices.
After an approach by Digia's chairman last year for help in assembling a portfolio of potential applications for the firm to develop, Peffers & Tuunanen worked with 14 likely early adopting customers and 18 experts (including bankers, risk investors, wireless carrier/telecoms operators and researchers) to develop the models for how it was thought that potential new features could affect their lives and how they felt about those impacts. They then used the models in brainstorming sessions with company executives. The models helped engineers and executives understand the reasons why specific features are important to the users.
Digia executives are enthusiastic about the results and will be using them to help plan new software products for 2002 and beyond.
According to Peffer: "CSC complements top-down planning. If firms want to develop successful new IT applications, they must make use of what customers, suppliers and others know about what IT should do." In an industry such as IT, where firms work at a frenetic pace to develop new products, it is particularly useful. Compared to other research methods it is affordable and fast the turn-around time for a project is two to three weeks from start to final report.
For a working paper with graphics and photos click here
Contact: Dr Ken Peffers