It may seem counterintuitive or even a waste of time, but it is far more effective to start new product development by envisioning what happens when it is over. In most cases, the vision is already present but is probably fuzzy. It probably involves picturing how the product works and how it was developed. It reflects the company’s “inside, looking out” view. A better approach is to move outward, from the customer’s point of view and describe what they experience.
An effective method of capturing the “outside looking inward” view is described in the article in this collection “Partnerships: Start with a Story.” That article focused on engaging potential business partners with what joint customers could experience as a result of the two companies working together. The same approach can work for the company in forecasting what the customer will experience as a result of purchasing and implementing the planned product or service. This view removes the tendency of focusing on the how the product will work. The “how” is replaced with “what” the product will do for the customer.
To help to maintain focus on the customer’s point of view, develop the story on the basis of a customer (a person) describing the result that they experienced due to their purchase of the product. In that context, they are not likely to talk about the product’s specifications, its design, or even its features and functions. Instead, they will focus on the resulting business issues that the product helps them address. An even better approach, if it is applicable, is to develop the story based on the experience or value received by the customer’s customer.
The more technical and complex the new product is, the more effective the End State story will become. It avoids the trap of focusing on the development details instead of the overall goal of the product. An analogy that I often use is that it is possible to exactly specify each part in an automobile and still not have it start at the end of the production. Often lost is the fact that the goal needs to be a fully functioning product as determined by the customer and not a product that is one hundred percent compliant to its specifications.
Of course, the details and specifications need to be clearly defined, but they should be developed keeping the End State in mind. In every product development cycle, trade-offs will have to be made. Often, those decisions are made on a daily basis by individuals at all levels in the organization. If each individual clearly understands what the customer’s expectation is as explained in the End State story, they are apt to make better decisions, and the story will, most likely, have a happy ending.