Customer Inspired; Technology Enabled
In his article, "Customer Inspired; Technology Enabled," Cagan discusses how strong product teams actually utilize their engineering talent. "The reason this is so important," Cagan writes, "is because it is so strikingly different from how most teams leverage their engineers. So many people think it’s the job of the founder or the product manager to decide what to build, and it’s the job of the engineers to build it. That sounds straight-forward enough, but it’s a sign of a mindset that rarely leads to truly disruptive products." "So then what is the source of true innovation," Cagan asks. "While there are many, for the clear majority of disruptive innovations that I get the opportunity to witness, the answer is the engineers."
So you might be thinking you need to be a Google, Amazon, Apple or Disney to innovate like this, but that’s not at all the case. I just picked those product teams because you know them.
On the other hand, Workiva is a company you’ve almost certainly never heard of, although they have been extremely successful growing from early startup to successful public company in just a few busy years. They focus on a very under-served type of customer – the finance and accounting people at nearly every large public company.
These people consistently work some of the longest hours in the company and it’s largely a thankless and unrecognized effort because the rest of the company views this as overhead. But the founders of Workiva met some of these people, saw their very visible pain, and realized that they could dramatically improve their lives.
There were already several other enterprise software providers for this market, but most enterprise software companies are terrible examples of best practices, and they were literally building what their customers were asking for.
In contrast, the team at Workiva was very strong at technology, and they reimagined the solutions. They made very early bets on a few key enabling technologies and trends: cloud infrastructure, and a rich and modular front-end system for very interactive, office-like apps completely on the web.
It’s worth noting that they also believed that leveraging state of the art technologies would help them attract and retain top engineers, which would then allow them to continue to provide disruptive and truly innovative solutions.
This focus on truly taking care of customers by providing leading-edge, technology-powered solutions has resulted in NPS scores higher even than Apple – which is unheard of in the enterprise software world.
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