I have recently started working as a “Senior Customer Adoption Engineer”. This is a kind of data scientist who helps to gain information about how modern technologies are used. So better decisions can be made about future software developments. This in turn benefits our customers. I am very happy about this new task. I think it is very important. Let me explain why I think so.
Data can save lives
When we hear about large amounts of data, this is often accompanied by concerns about our privacy. But as is so often the case, there is another side to it. Large amounts of data can help us make vital decisions. This is particularly visible during the current corona pandemic. The more information we have about the status of the infections, the more accurate and reliable this data is, the better decisions we can make. Decisions that can save many lives.
That’s why scientists are working feverishly to increase testing capacities for the corona virus. That’s why politicians and decision-makers in Germany and many other countries listen to scientists. The scientists’ recommendations can be made on the basis of a good database.
Data in product developments and new technologies
My employer VMware delivers new technologies to better create, run and use applications. Product managers and business units must make decisions about what features are needed, or what improvements are important or needed quickly. Some decisions are made on instinct, but they are often based on existing data.
There are business figures such as revenue, licenses sold per solution, pipeline, and other relatively easy to obtain information. But there is also another side: What are customers doing with the technologies? How are they used? What benefits are particularly important, what are the difficulties? We have a lot of customers, so we use analysis of support requests, but also anonymously sent information from our products, if the customers allow it. You can get interesting data through these automated channels.
But really valuable are the data that reflect the subjective perception of the users. How well do the new technologies and solutions perform the tasks for which they are intended? I am now working on improving this kind of research in my new team. There’s a wonderful book on this topic that I would recommend if you are interested in gaining customer information: “Lean Customer Development” by Cindy Alvarez. The subtitle is “Build Products Your Customers Will Buy”, and it’s full of insights and practical tips on how to approach customers, be it via email, phone interviews or on-site interviews. The book is valuable for start-ups and also for established companies.
I am working on ways to provide useful information that generates valuable insights. Our customers should benefit from this because they get even better solutions, but it should also make the work of our product management easier. It should help them to make the right decisions.