In the background of our daily tasks it is helpful to remind ourselves about the people we are doing the testing for – the end user of the product under development. Why is the user using this service or product? Does it make the customer feel better off than before? We have plenty of good examples on customer value enabling work in VALA projects. Customer value is enabled by granting loans for companies and people to achieve their dreams, or by helping emergency vehicles get where they need to be to save lives. Or simply by making it easier for people to relax every once in a while with fun and games.
How does your work help your customer? What is the main purpose of this all?
This is the topic we talked about in the last test management center of excellence we call M-hub at VALA. What is customer value? It is not how many automated test cases you have written or how many bugs you’ve fixed. It is not the amount of profit your project is making. No, the perspective is entirely on the user. You can analyze customer value in different ways. For example, by following the principles of customer value proposition you can divide it based on the following questions (Mulder, 2012):
1. How well and easily the customers can do the things they want to (functional value)?
2. How good do they feel using it (emotional value)?
3. How much time and money do they save using it (economic value)?
4. What do the customers feel they’re standing for when using it (symbolic value)?
5. And a synthesis of all these factors (end value).
The customer value is only created when the customer is using the product or a service, so basically the software development team is only enabling it, making it possible for the user.
As one of our M-hubbies Joonas Luukkonen brought up in the meeting, thinking of customer value gives your own work a deeper meaning and boosts your motivation. It makes a big difference whether you think you are creating test cases or making something with bigger meaning. It is also about speaking the same language with the business and technical people to reach a common ground to build on. When all parties understand the need behind the requirements, it is easier to make good choices during the project or a service.
Customer value helps in prioritizing. How important is this area for my customer? Is it trivial and I shouldn’t be working on it at all? Or is it trivial but still necessary for some reason, so it should be done but finessing it wouldn’t be worthwhile? Or is it in the essence of the customers’ daily tasks, so that functional correctness and user experience needs to be brilliant? Or is the data just so security sensitive, that it runs over usability back and forth? All these customer value related questions help us make better daily choices in testing.
How to make it happen?
In the end of our last M-hub meeting we discussed customer value in our own projects and how to take that into consideration in our daily work. We came up with lots of ideas based on different project situations, but they could be grouped by a few themes:
1. Understand the principles of customer value creation from literacy etc. If you don’t know the concept, it’s hard to utilize it.
2. Get out of your own bubble: understand the field and the user better. Look into user feedback if available. Don’t assume, just ask the customer!
3. Ask from various team members about their take on the customer value
4. Share your knowledge on customer value with team members.
5. Design your work based on customer value goals instead of routines or standards.
6. Concentrate and prioritize work based on what enables most value to customer.
7. Keep your skills up-to-date to be able to keep on serving the customer well.
When is the last time you took the time to think about the customer value your work enables? Why do the customers need your services or products? How do your customers’ customers benefit from it? When you clarify your answers to these questions, you’ll not only be working, you are a vital part of something bigger.