Grouping Support, Development, Quality, and Process articles in the same volume may appear to be illogical. However, when one steps back and thinks about support issues that customers require, many of their root causes can be traced back to the development of the product or service, quality, or process implementation. As the old saying goes: “Hindsight is 20/20”. As customer issues arise, common observations are: “We should have known” or “We should have done more research”.
“Development”, as used in this volume, consists of far more considerations than the activities of the engineers or designers that are focusing on the creation of the product or service. It encompasses many issues that should be considered long before the first developer begins their efforts of designing hardware or writing code. It needs to start with “What should we develop?” and even “Why should we develop it?”.
Similar to Development, Customer Service activities need to start long before the first customer needs any service. In fact, customer service considerations need to be taken into account early in the process, similar to the timing mentioned above about Development.
Unfortunately, in most organizations, especially well-established organizations, both Development and Customer Service departments become involved after requirements documents (for Development) and actual product availability (for Customer Service) have been finalized. Invariably, items and considerations will have slipped through the crack. Often, it is “too late” for corrective action.
For startups, the lack of involvement is often due to the perceived need to “get to the market” as fast as possible. The perceived need may be based on the quest for first mover advantage or to impress potential investors. It may also be based on the new, trendy introduction of the “Minimum Viable Product” approach. There is no question that all of these motives can be valid and provide meaningful results. However, without at least thinking about the long-term impacts of both Development and Customer Service, the decisions made early-on may result in the selection of paths that will be hard to reverse later.
There are, of course, many other elements within every company that fall into the Development and Support category. Human Capital (employee support and development), Marketing (sales support and prospect development), and Partner development and support, are some of those areas. Although they could have been placed in this volume, their inclusion in other volumes in this collection was deemed to be more appropriate.
Following the same inadvertent lack of forethought, Quality and Process implementation, often are addressed later, after-the-fact. During the initial stages of envisioning a product or service, it is natural to think of all four categories, Development, Customer Service, Quality, and Process Implementation as important subjects that need to be addressed “later”, after the high-level plans are solidified. The reality is that these four categories can be thought of as the four pillars that will hold up the structure on which the company can stand to see their vision. Unfortunately, in many cases, “later” is “too late”.