Sunday, April 3, 2016

Learning from a customer through strong-style pairing

We've been working on a set of features on our product we've labeled around a customer. They're features beneficial for others too, but they're existence is particularly important for one.

At some point of this, we already learned that taking down the distance between the programmer&tester and the customer was a great idea, helping us a lot in solving  the right problem. As often goes, the second hand information was distorted turning it into a feature instead of the need, and the best way to solve the need was altogether a different feature.

With the past learning of direct contact behind us, the product management had no issue with the idea that I would be trusted with getting the customer to use the product too. I was told to write a guideline, and in addition I scheduled a workshop with the customer.

Armed with the goal of knowledge transfer, I asked the customer to share his screen on Skype for me. I walked him through the login, guided him to the library his task was to fill out and made him do the work instructing with my words. I created him an experience of use, and in the end we retrospected for a while on what he learned and found complicated. While observing him as he did what I guided him to do, I learned of a missing feature he never realized to ask for as he even now did not see that was his need. And from our session, he could now do the things that were abstract. The guideline I wrote might be a helpful future reference, but much less necessary having the experience (not a demo) of use under his belt.

Later, I talked with the product manager who assumed I had "demoed the features" and seemed very pleased with the idea that the customer had been my hands on this demo saying he wouldn't have thought to do that. I labelled what I did: Strong-style pairing - for an idea from my head must go through the others hands. The label gave it a place in the ways to do things in the product manager's head, and he said he'd try that too. "Never thought of that", he said. I could feel smug about having thought of it, but the truth is I was told to think of it 1,5 years ago. I too NEVER thought of that before - that the roles in how you pair matter a lot.