Is Your Tech Hitting the Target or Hunting for It?
Ray Soltis, CEO, Solatech, Inc.
Think about your favorite app. It might be on your phone or your computer. Maybe you use it for work or personal reasons. Then, think about why it’s your favorite. I can probably guess. That app seems to always know what you want from it, and delivers it without any fuss.
Now, think about the ones that aren’t so great. Maybe they won’t do exactly what you want. Maybe they’re challenging to use, and turn seemingly simple tasks into chores.
There are way too many of the ones that aren’t so great. Fortunately, they don’t have to be that way. Software can miss the mark for one simple reason: The people who made it don’t understand their users and what they value.
Watch for These Red Flags
We’re not only developers of software. We’re buyers, too, and have to evaluate products that we use in our business. We’ve developed a keen eye for products that miss the mark and lead to frustrations. There are usually symptoms that we’re going to be disappointed, and these are just a few of them:
- Software that solves the wrong problem
- A problem that no one has, or a problem that is already managed by a common product you own. Good software starts with empathy for the user. It understands what causes their customers pain, and attacks those problems with single-minded focus.
- Software that appears to solve the right problem, but only works if it’s customized to match what customers want
- Maybe it’s been rushed to market or maybe the developer failed to understand exactly how customers use it. Either way, when a significant number of users clamor for the developer to add necessary features, that’s a red flag.
- Software that focuses on low cost
- Free or inexpensive apps are fine if your business doesn’t depend on them. But software, and the business behind it, needs to be sustainable. Both need to be there for you when you need them.
- Software that jumps on trends and bandwagons.
- It doesn’t matter whether an app or software will run on a tablet, smart watch or other device if it can’t deliver the features users need. Capabilities are what matter to your business!
Most businesses depend on some software for critical tasks. Software that does only part of the work or that sacrifices the right features for a low price can cost more in the long run.
Making Software That Hits the Target
There are several paths developers can take to get to a good product. Amazon – which is as much an IT company as it is a retailer – requires every product idea to start with a press release that clearly explains who the product is for, what it does, and the value it delivers.
While we’re not as big as Amazon yet, we started with a similar idea. We want to clearly understand:
- The Problem. This seems pretty basic, but knowing the scope of the problem your customers face is more important than starting with a solution.
- The Customer. How seriously does the problem we’ve identified impact the customer? What does a good solution look like to them? What is absolutely essential to them?
- The Value. Solving a problem isn’t the same as providing value. If the solution can’t improve the customer’s bottom line, it’s probably not a solution the customer will want to buy.
We’re not unique. This approach is similar to the one many product and software developers use. But in the face of what seems like a good idea, it’s easy to forget the basics and plunge straight toward a solution.
Empathy for customers is the perfect check on that impulse. They’re the ones who have to see the value in the product, put down their money for it, and live with it. When we understand what gets in the way of running their business, why, and how they would solve the problem, we’re off to a great head start. And that’s before we’ve ever written a single line of code.