As a technologist or product owners, we have a choice – Solve complex problems or solve consumer problems? Believe me, there is a huge difference.
Being techy it gives us people a thrill to solve complex problems even if the problem has zero correlation to a real consumer.
As long as its complex we want to solve it :). Let’s not get into why of it? Maybe it gives a mind thrill or gives a good massage to our ego.
But then what’s the point of product & technology, if it does not solve consumer problems? or real-world problems?
I would say this is one of the biggest learning for me, now that I have my own startup. And I can safely say this makes a huge difference between a successful techy and an average one. Anyone who gets this prospective can not only deliver things much faster but adds tremendous value to the product.
I learned it the hard way, here is how it happened:
Initial days as a techy I had very little interaction with clients who were using our software. But one day I had a call with one of our biggest clients to explain (We use to provide a platform for sellers to sell their items and ship it to the consumer, something similar to eBay) why a major release got postponed leading to shipping & tracking problems. The Client was losing a lot of money because of this issue.
I was dreading the call and was ready with all the tech explanations why it happened, what are we doing to fix it, etc, etc…
The call started, my sales colleague did a quick intro along with the business side updates and handed over to me …
I started with all sorts of technical jargon and then tried explaining that the architecture of the dashboard was scraped and rebuilt for scale…blabbering as much as possible to convince him.
Off-course he couldn’t understand a single word.
But here comes the surprise:
Me – “Sir, the release got delayed because blah blah…we are working day and night to get it live by next week and again blah blah blah more jargons”
Client – “That’s fine but can u please enable my shipping address in the success page”
Me – After long pause….“Sorry, didn’t get, Please tell me again..”
Client – “You guys have removed my shipping address from the success page to make it more prominent on the next page, and hence my customer couldn’t find it easily. ” Client Continued – “Because of this, my customers are not able to understand and have been canceling orders. Also, I need to coordinate with every customer on the phone/mail and losing money…”
Me – Again a longer pause, but some sense of relief and guilt for making this guy and others suffer for our favorite “Dashboard Release”
“Sure Sir, I am sorry for the issue it might be a product bug let me fix it asap”
Client as politely as possible – “I am not much concerned with when the dashboard goes live but please fix this asap and I am more than happy”
Me – Now with more confidence, since its just a shipping address to be added to the success page.
“Sure Sir, I assure you, we will release it by tomorrow”
We fixed the shipping address display issue in the success page, The Client(s) was happy and we released our dashboard in next two weeks (BTW – there were very few usages of the Dashboard but that’s a different story)
This was a life-changing moment for me, I couldn’t understand what happened for some time, why is the client not bothered to use Dashboard built with great technology and supposedly help him so much.
Later I figured that most of the clients had a simple system to show the shipping address and get their team to process it thru excel. Why would they want their team to learn Dashboard and make it difficult, learn a new skill set and invest more?
If we would have understood their problem a bit deeper and had integrated excel into it. It would have been much easier to implement, much faster, and would be very helpful to them. But we were solving a very difficult problem of integration of data from different sources into a single Dashboard and was being proud doing it.
Remember 80-20 Rule
To all the techies and product folks, remember – 20% of product & product features are used 80% of the time hence if we can hone this 20% we are winners. Of course, it’s difficult to identify the 20% and that’s where our focus should be.
So next time if you see a complex problem to be solved, first raise questions what & why, is it really helping someone? and if it does not go solve a complex puzzle to massage your ego 🙂 but please ignore the complex problem.