The Client Role In Product Success

September 5, 2012

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog post, Turning Customer Intelligence Into Information, provided an interesting look at the value of converting customer data into intelligence to drive innovative solutions.  The post focuses on how Procter & Gamble, a huge global consumer-products company with thousands of brands, uses sophisticated anthropological approaches to anticipating customer needs.  While this methodology for transforming customer information into game-changing innovation may be unique to P&G, the importance of customer information in fueling product development is immeasurable for all businesses in all industries.

The blog suggests three phases that can help companies “intertwine customer intelligence” into successful innovation:

  1. Discovery:  to define the problem or issue
  2. Blueprint:  to address the identified problem
  3. Iteratively test:  to ensure the solution solves the issue and can be reliably delivered

While the article focuses on consumer products, we think the basic concept of gathering customer feedback throughout the development process is relevant for any business.  At PORTIA, we gather client input for our development efforts through multiple touch points, such as our dedicated Client Operations Managers, a 24×7 support desk, on-line access to product experts and numerous client engagement programs.  These touch points give us multiple avenues to gather and include customer feedback into our development process and help define our product roadmap.  

Recently we began deeper and more directed client engagement process, similar to the phases the HBR blog presents, to ensure we are consistently exceeding our clients’ needs and expectations.  After completing our divestiture to SS&C Technologies, we hosted a series of presentations focused on our strategic vision and product roadmap, engaging our client base in a conversation of the future of PORTIA.  Following these presentations, we extended our “discovery” phase with an outreach program from our Product Management and Development teams.  The PORTIA Product teams contacted over 50%of our clients around the globe and had general discussions about each client’s business needs and ways that PORTIA can better support them. 

Our next step was to take this information and fine-tune our “blueprint” or roadmap to ensure we are addressing the issues and evolving needs of our client base and the industry in general.  Specifically, we used the client feedback to confirm our vision or “blueprint” for each of our roadmap initiatives – solidifying the prioritization of features within a given theme and confirming the sequencing of projects across the roadmap. Building from this vision, we’re creating a set of detailed functional requirements to assess scope and determine which features will be delivered in each upcoming release.  Client engagement will continue throughout the “iteratively test” phase to ensure that our detailed designs reflect client workflows and solve the business problems that were conveyed during “discovery”.

This process not only helps drive product development, but it also reinforces the value of strong client relationships and increases client satisfaction.   It highlights that success is driven by partnership and collaboration, and that the comprehensive collection of information and expertise from internal and external resources is critical to our development efforts. 

Clients know their needs best, and our job is to exceed those needs.  We take what clients tell us, add it to what other users are saying, and marry that with our internal knowledge and research – this drives product development in a way that streamlines user workflows to increase efficiency and provides product features that support global operational and regulatory needs.  All of this collaboration results in strong relationships and innovative products that help PORTIA clients differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive business environment.

–          Denise Ornell, Director of Product Development


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