Who is your customer?

Who is the customer is one of my favorite questions while starting any assignment, and it is a straightforward question and, curiously, one of the trickiest.

The customer is the one who orders work and pays for it, right.

In the agile world, we have a mantra on delivering business value to make our customers happy or delight our customers.

When working in a small team, in a small organization, you might know your customer by name.

That’s for the theory. When you dive deeper, things are slightly different.

Your boss is not your customer.

By default, your boss cannot be your customer even she orders the development and pay for it. Your boss is the authority giving you the necessary set-up to create value for the company. The company has customers or potential customers (benchmark), and your boss is your sponsor.

Your user can be your customer, but not always.

The user is the one using the solution you will develop. The customer is the one who orders and buys the solution.

Typically, the user is the customer’s customer. In agile, when you collect user stories, they are the items that will create a great user experience. They are primarily functionalities based on needs.

The user is providing requirements creating the conditions where the needs are addressed.

If you are a consultant working on a development team, who is your customer?

Here comes the most tricky part, and you have to differentiate between:

  • The customer gives you the mandate to work on a team
  • And the customer orders the development of a solution by the team

The crazy equation

As a third party, it isn’t effortless to make everyone happy. If you are making your customer happy, you respond to requirements that maybe don’t make our customer’s customer (client) happy.

If you are making the team’s customers happy only, there is a risk that you are making your client unhappy. Sounds insane, right?

Talented Product Owners and Agile Coaches know a crazy equation that reconcile the different states of happiness:

  1. A great User Experience (UX) will make users happy. When users are happy, that makes customers happy.
  2. A great Customer Experience will make the customer happy, making our client happy.
  3. An excellent Team experience (PX) will increase customer experience.
  4. Not knowing your users or your customers increases the risk of doing the wrong thing for the bad people for the wrong reasons.
  5. In agile, great professionals understands that needs come first, requirements second.

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On my business card, I wrote Agile Coach. My Agile coaching is an evolution of systemic coaching putting myself in the system and not as an outstanding observer

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Pierre Neis

On my business card, I wrote Agile Coach. My Agile coaching is an evolution of systemic coaching putting myself in the system and not as an outstanding observer