How to graduate from being a code-centric to a customer-centric technology leader

customer focus - the key to developing products
The Top 20 reasons for startup failure reports that 42% of products failed because they were not needed in the market. The same study also cites “ignoring customers” a reason for failure in 14% of the startups. In today’s agile environment the success of a product is clearly dependent on innovations that are based on consumer feedback. If a product is not solving customers’ problem or it is not adding value to them, it is bound to fail. Developing products which cater to the dynamic consumer need is a challenge that business leaders are facing today. The challenge is even more difficult for a tech leader who has been developing code-centric products for years.

Why shift from code-centric leadership?

“Building products is like running a marathon” and if the tech leaders keep clinging on to their code-centric approach, the product would struggle to maintain its pace. Code-centric leadership revolves around developing products and services based on their understanding of the codes. In customer-centric leadership, on the other hand, developers take the customer needs into account to design a product or a service. A technology leader who handles product development is used to thinking around codes while a customer-centric product manager incorporates the technical aspects as well as the real-time customer feedback in the operations. Revulytics data reveals that about 33% of Product Managers are not collecting or using any data on customer insight. Contrary to this, according to the same survey, around 36% of companies already have a process of taking customer feedback into account. A customer-centric shift for the code-centric tech leaders is essential for development of products to gain a competitive advantage through creating positive customer experiences. Customer-centricity in leadership is the new age key to success in the era of technology disruption.

How to become a customer centric leader?

The current global market demands for a complete shift from an IT mindset and requires businesses to focus on solving customers’ problems with their products and services. Understanding of product life cycle and the customer value proposition has become a fundamental segment of the technology business today. Since product management is no more centred around developing unmatched technology, code-centric leaders must learn to manage end users opinion and feedback throughout the product development phase. The determinants to graduate oneself from a technology-centric leader to a customer-focused leader are; Customer-centric Alignment– The business leaders should count on the data from customer feedback since the inception of the product idea. Understanding customer’s point of view helps in building a successful product roadmap. A research done by Accenture suggests three main components in customer-centric alignment. These are;
  • The product innovation should be based on customer expectation 
  • Incorporate the customer feedback in the business processes
  • Encourage customer-focus as the organization’s culture
Data Smartness– New generation tech leaders should become data smart and use analytics to develop a customer-centric attitude for development of products. Relying on the data based on customer insight will help the product managers to timely predict changes in customer’s demands and make modifications. Appropriate analysis of customer insight data helps in identifying the shifting customer requirements which in turn, helps in product innovation and also in taking corrective measure on time. Networking- Networking helps in building professional relationships and is a great source of having cognizance of the market. It acts as a platform where the feasibility of a new product can be tested. The product demo can be presented in the circle to get valuable feedback from experts. Connecting with people in the field helps in getting perspective that are relevant.  Leadership is not confined to the four walls of the office premises, it takes all-round communication and multi-stage presence within its purview. Alignment of Team with Customer-Centric Approach – A study finds that the employees feel more satisfied if they are given the authority to address issues faced by customers. Engaging employees to drive the customer focus within the organization can be a valuable tool for leaders in customer association. Customer-centric leadership is not only about committing oneself to the approach, but it is also about the effective alignment of the team with the customer-first strategy. Tech leaders will have to address the customer pain points while developing a product. It is crucial for them to understand the needs of their current as well as the future customer to successfully run the product building marathon.
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