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It’s obvious that we should involve the customer or the user(s) in the process of developing a new service for the Internet. That should be for the whole life-cycle of the development process – from the beginning to the end. I started trying to figure this out some months ago and was surprised how little seems to be done in this arena right now.

That applies for both the B2B and B2C services. One might argue that it is already done, however. Aren’t the consultants of big IT companies spending hundreds (if not thousands) of hours talking to the customer (and billing for it) – making sure that the requirements are understood? Don’t we have the “beta” process for a web 2.0 sites where users can give feedback and influence the future development?

Yes. And no.

First of all, the B2B processes are in many cases extremely ineffective. Or at least expensive. Real life time constraints also affect this process heavily, budgets don’t always strecth to accomodate these ineffective processes and finally it cannot cope with changing requirements during the development phase.

Small companies also either cannot charge the customer for that or don’t have the resources to do it.

In B2C services the “beta” also, by definition, means that the design is so far already that in many cases fundamental changes cannot be done anymore (or they are at least expensive). The User Stories that might tell with users’ own words what a service should be done, is not easy to do as of now.

There are, of course, existing research in this are. For example “Participatory Design”┬áis an example of an approach applicable for the Internet service design as well. We lack however practical processes and implementation tools.

But wouldn’t it be nice that the users actually could be involved in a service design from the very early beginning? Would it mean that we might actually get better services for less cost?

What do you think? Do you know real-life example sof the problems or solutions concerning this problem?

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