September 6, 2014

List of customer development practices

Back to basics

The third line of the Agile manifesto states that we should value customer collaboration over contract negotiation. As XP and Scrum, the most popular Agile methodologies, introduced a customer facing role (Customer in XP, Product Owner in Scrum), it has helped our industry get closer to our customers. Unfortunately, I find there is still a lot of work to be done around this role.

In a previous blog post, I explained how the most popular practices/techniques used in Agile software development are used to make features faster and of better quality. As I noted in this post, few practices exists in Agile on discovering the actual business problem at hands with these practices. Our most popular practices are much more focusing on software development and not on customer development.

If Agile has turned our industry around in the last decade, how come we have so few practices around customer development? If we still have a hard time at solving the business problem, I believe it is time to explore outside of the IT realm to find answers. We need to learn from other communities who have a better understanding of what exactly is customer development.

In the last few years, the Lean Startup movement has generated a lot of valuable information around starting a business. They have been documented through books and blogs, talked at conferences and of course, launched through startups. As startups have to discover and engage rapidly with customers, they have developed quite a breath of practices to do what they call customer development (CD). I think we Agilist can learn from this theme to instill even more value in the third line of the Agile manifesto.


Identifying CD practices

While I am fairly new to customer development, I decided to list practices that I had discovered. Reading through blogs, books, presentations and wikis which revolve around Lean Startup, here, are the practices I have seen the most being mentioned: