Industrial internet – with customer perspective

This blog discusses industrial internet driven development projects. In this context, DevOps thinking is the main framework. However, it is limited because of lacking customer orientation. Understanding better ways and means of customer engagement would result in better projects fluency.

DevOps is based on an idea of bringing increased velocity, quality, and better iteration between development and operations roles. However, this approach is limited, as the focus tends to be in the service provider’s internal work flow. Usually, customer role is absent.

How should the principles of DevOps be expanded? There would need to be better understanding on how changing customer expectations and new market opportunities should reflect the continuous delivery of digital business concepts. The sharp definitions of roles, responsibilities and customer engagement are a necessity for agile development projects. Customer success should be the leading thinking model with solutions design in the industrial internet context. All these refer to the importance of strong and conceptualized participation of the customer team.

Product and customer life-cycle management united

Many technology companies treat product and customer life-cycle management as separate processes. The next evolution will be to unite these two. As customer and product life-cycles are managed together, the sales and development teams will be able to increase velocity and proactivity in tailoring technology development projects for the customers.

However, there will be challenges in combining the internal and customer work flows. Organizational silos, cultures and processes may collide. New consultative skills will also be needed in managing the teams on the both sides of the fence.

New consultative sales needed in customer frontline

With the IoT (or industrial internet) solutions, the customers are driven by new business opportunities. The conversation should be brought into new consultative mode, interpreting phenomena and data, building scenarios and concluding the alternative road maps together between the customer and service supplier.

Thus, the solutions, offered to the customers, become larger and increasingly complex. As a result, the customers expect to have more collaboration and support in managing the change. This is contradictory to what most suppliers are ready for, in the times of lean thinking. The competence leap, expected by the clients, will be a windy road for many tech service providers.

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Managerial implication: focus on customer frontline competence

Efficient work flows are highly tied to setting of clear roles and responsibilities. Internally – and with the customer teams. The principles of DevOps thinking are not at all outdated – but need to be refreshed with increased customer empathy.

The leap in customer frontline competence is a key prerequisite for increased agility, quality and customer success. Learning challenges especially concern conversation skills, customer life-cycle management and supporting the customers in managing the change. These are the focus areas in the forthcoming digital transformation processes.

Hannu Mattinen. Senior business designer and managing partner at Steps Ahead Oy. Produces simulation environments for corporate customers. Focus in commercialization of new tech solutions and competence development.

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