Two panelists at the June 21, 2012 meeting of the Boston Product Management Association said listening to existing customers was not always a good idea.
The panel’s title was on “Sophomoric Software: Going from Prototype to Production,” and the discussion included standard advice to start-ups and early stage technology organizations. But the comments about listening to customers reversed conventional wisdom.
Bill McQuaide, Executive Vice President, Products and Strategy, Black Duck, observed that the installed base will suck you in and drain you of resources asking you for new features on software that they bought yesterday. This may be good for them, but not good for your company as it seeks a broader market.
CTO and Partner at Cambria Consulting Scott Simpson asked if you add every feature that customers want or do you have a vision of the future and bring customers along with the vision?
My experience at Digital Equipment Corporation, later purchased by Compaq, suggests that if you ONLY listened to existing customers, you will miss the broader changes in the marketplace. DEC listened to its loyal customers and ignored the fact that new applications were being written for and deployed on competitive systems.
The other panelists were Larry Kim - Founder, CTO at WordStream, and Igor Tsinman - Chief Technical Liaison, Partner at Sitrus LLC. The event was moderated by Alyssa Dver, CEO Mint Green Marketing and author of “Software Product Management Essentials”