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    How to Show Your Customers You’re Listening

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    When bringing a new product to market, prioritization focuses on the minimum set of features required to validate your product in the market with customers. This is typically called an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). As the product organization starts to achieve product-market fit, the product starts to gain traction and acquire customers. Determining what’s most important to build next then becomes more challenging. There are more stakeholders who need a voice in ensuring that their area of concern is incorporated in the planning process: existing customers, new customers, the sales team, implementation teams, support teams, engineers, board of directors and other senior leaders. While a good product strategy and vision assists product organizations to align incoming requests, it still leaves a daunting challenge of collecting, incorporating, and communicating all of this feedback and how it may influence priorities.

    Vodori has been iterating on its prioritization framework since the MVP of Pepper Flow. We’ve created an organizational system that provides clarity and alignment across the various stakeholders, ensuring that we consistently put our customers first and deliver a robust and powerful product.

    We have always believed and embodied the idea that if our customers succeed and are exceedingly and consistently happy with the work, then Vodori wins. This belief has been at the heart of Vodori culture since 2005 and is now a critical pillar in our prioritization framework and contributes to the “art” of prioritization.

    So how do we prioritize?

    The first thing we realized is that we needed a central way to collect, synthesize, debate, and clarify the myriad pieces of feedback we were receiving on the product across our CSMs (Customer Success Managers), sales, partners, end users, customer panels, conferences, market research, product engineering, and so on. We needed a way to create awareness of what the market was asking for across the whole organization. Thus we created a framework called “Project Satellite.”

    Project Satellite is organized around an inventory of all the capabilities we’ve heard the industry needs or wants. The inventory describes, ranks, clarifies, and qualifies each capability by the customer problem it solves, how often we’ve heard it and the value it will bring to us and our customers.

    After we’ve describe each feature and the market’s expectation of that feature, we score them on a numerical scale based on customer desirability, criticality to implement, and complexity of implementation. Ranking each of the features in this way allows us to determine customer value in an unbiased manner.

    For example, let’s assume our CSM is working with a customer and it becomes clear that a new feature, such as automatically detecting previously used claims and their associated reference links, would provide tremendous value. Our CSM would engage with our customer to understand and clarify the need and would update our Project Satellite inventory. If this feature is already in our inventory, it receives a scoring boost for an additional customer mention. If it is a new feature, it is added to the inventory for discussion at our next Satellite meeting. This mechanism ensures that direct feedback from existing and new customers makes its way to the cross-functional product team.

    Deciding what to build

    Once all features are scored and ranked, we need to determine what to prioritize. Our cross-functional team representing Sales, Marketing, Product, and Customer Support meet to evaluate the highest ranked features. Our reports display features most mentioned by customers and prospects, those that are easiest to implement (“quick wins”), those that deliver the highest value to our customers, and those that have the highest aggregate score. The top features from each report are evaluated and get slotted into our roadmap accordingly.

    Through this system, we are able to ensure the product team is maintaining proximity to customer feedback and the market which provides critical context when developing our roadmap. Further, it helps our sales and CSM teams ensure that our customer voice is heard and enables them to manage customer expectations. The Satellite system we’ve developed has been an instrumental success at Vodori and for our customers.

    Grant Gochnauer

    Grant is CTO and co-founder of Vodori. Grant is responsible for Vodori’s Product R&D, platform architecture and strategy. He has been building enterprise systems for customers in life sciences for more than 17 years.

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