Since Customer Results are such a central concept to our way of work, this post will explain what they are, why we use them and how we organize our work around them.
Customer Results Focus on the Outcome
As the name gives away, customer results are about just two things: customers, and results.
This means that when describing customer results, we focus on the outcome for our current and future customers. Anything else like "how can we achieve this?" or "what does this mean for our product?" are not relevant at this stage yet.
We love customer results because they provide...
- focus: To any problem out there, there are thousands of solutions. Especially when you work in a great team. That's why it's important to focus on the challenge first. What is our biggest challenge at the moment that keeps us from succeeding? What is the most valuable thing we can do right now? All those things are easier to determine when you start at the outcome that you want to achieve instead of all of the solutions to all problems we could solve.
- flexibility: Customer results are being worked on by self-organizing teams who have the freedom and flexibility to decide on the best way to achieve a certain result. That also means that we do not narrow down the solution before the team starts working on it.
- empathy: We describe challenges faced by our customers using real people and real stories instead of idealized personas. And a customer result describes what the outcome will mean to them.
Since customer results are about achieving tangible and meaningful outcomes, they are typically no small feats. Most of our customer results span between 4 to 12 weeks worth of dedicated team work.
How we Write a Customer Result
Our inspiration for customer results comes from our daily interactions with customers. For example, we collect insights from customer success meetings and collect feedback from all users via our public feedback portal. No matter from which interaction inspiration comes from – anyone at meshcloud can propose a customer result.
Titles, Titles, Titles
The first step to a good customer result is to pick a good title. We like catchy phrases that transport empathy. Let's take a real example from our backlog right now:
What's great about this title? Suppose you're on the team working on this customer result, what is your mission? To make the people using meshStack to manage their landing zones feel like a boss!
A traditional scrum backlog would have had a couple of user stories like "as a platform operator, I want a button to ... so I can ...". Not so our customer result. This is about making someone feel like a boss! That's a clear cut mission statement: the team owns the entirety of discovering, deciding and delivering on the solution. What matters is that the team is able to demonstrate that the goal has been achieved. Working directly with customers makes this easy too – in this case just ask your customers if they feel like a boss using your solution!
While a title sets the general direction, we do of course describe the challenge and outcome in more detail. That's why this description starts in the spirit of working backwards with a fictional press release or story that describes the outcome. In those statements, we often use fictional things that we hope real people we work with might say about the outcome like "Peter goes to twitter to rave about his newfound landing zone power: just deployed a new AWS Config rule to all our 500 AWS accounts with meshStack Landing Zones, was a breeze!"
This is a success when...
While empathy and qualitative results are important, we always explore options to quantify and validate results. Like acceptance criteria in traditional user stories, this section of a customer result describes the success criteria we hope to meet. This can leverage metrics and other sources of feedback as well.
It's all in the team
Who do we need to succeed in delivering this customer result? This is where a description of the customer result dream team comes in.
When working on a result that affects a particular type of customer situation, the core of the dream team is to bring in meshis with first-hand expertise of these situations. In our "Landing Zone Management Like a Boss" example above, we would want to bring in colleagues from the solutions team that help customers build and configure landing zones first hand. We also bring in someone from the engineering team that knows a lot about how meshStack handles and orchestrates landing zones, as well as a meshi from the growth flock that is responsible for the communication of these newly achieved capabilities to the outside.
Priorization with RICE
There are so many good ideas to work on at any moment that it's hard to pick the next thing. To help us guide these decisions, we use the RICE framework. Simply put, we describe the dimensions
- Reach: Who is this result affecting?
- Impact: What "magnitude" of impact does this result have?
- Confidence: How confident are we in our assessment of reach, impact and effort?
- Effort: How much effort do we estimate this is for a team working full time on it?
One positive effect of applying RICE to all customer results is that we ensure that all dimensions have been thought of and described against an established frame of reference. Of course, the simplicity of the scoring
Score = Reach * Impact * Confidence / Effort model is misleading. It's not as easy as picking the results with the highest scores. We also consider alignment with strategic goals and other criteria. Nonetheless we find the method provides good comparability of customer results and it has proven its worth as a basis for making difficult priorization decisions.
Product Managers guide the Process
Remember earlier we said that every meshi can propose a new customer result? As a meshi proposing a customer result, our product managers are here to help and guide you through the customer result process. They provide constructive feedback on customer results and help refine them to a state where they become plannable/priorizable.
They also maintain a global board of Customer Results visible to everybody in the company. This allows us to see exactly what everyone is working on at any time and why. We also regularly publish a high-level roadmap externally, to provide transparency of what we work on to our customers and externals.
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