This is an era of open innovation and unarguably everyone understands the fact. But whether we all have answers on how to create innovation beyond the walls of an organization is not yet clear. I am not an expert on “Open Innovation”, just trying to drop my thoughts on specific aspect of innovation by customers. More importantly, I am trying to focus on the innovation in configuration of existing products and technologies. When we release any product we provide configurations and possible use cases / solutions of the product as part of the marketing and sales collateral. We often do not know how our product will be used and real use cases are really too huge to capture in the collateral documents. So our list of use cases might be limited to solving the critical or most important pain points of the customer.
There are classic examples of using the product quite contrary to its intended use. So there are few innovative customers who are always step ahead of us in implementing either new use cases independently through innovative changes in configuration or new solutions through successfully aligning our product with other products. In products such as DPI, we provide the required infrastructure to perform two basic functionalities: cost reduction and revenue generation. Some of these innovative customers whom I would comfortably refer to as Innovators or Visionaries as explained by Geoffrey Moore in his book “Crossing the Chasm” do dare to exploit the full functionality of the product to resolve the challenges faced by them. In the process, they constantly identify innovative changes in configuration to use the DPI technology in its fullest form. Such customers constantly poses technical challenges and helps us to build better products which eventually puts us ahead of the competition. Personally it is good to have such customers and my opinion is that they are worthy of a million dollar customer.
Now the primary focus is to locate such customers capture their innovations and later communicate those innovations. The customer innovations should serve as a sufficient fodder for the engineering team to develop either new functionality that can leverage those innovations or enhance the capabilities of the existing product as to supplement the innovation. For instance, one of our customers was using our product at an insertion point in the network that was traditionally not the targeted insertion point of our product. However the customer was able identify an opportunity which we missed out. Later engineering team collaborated with the customer to add new functionality that customer can further leverage to fully exploit the opportunity. For marketing, it opened gateways for new way of positioning the product thereby generating additional demand. Hmmm… we are touching upon one of earlier topics of discussion ‘Attacking white spaces – Demand generation’.
Let me bring back our focus on how to locate innovative customers. In this particular instance, we accidentally hit upon configuration(s)/ usage of our product by one of our customer. But we have to make some genuine attempts to constantly locate such innovative customers. Only teams that are in direct touch with customers can help us do the job, IMO account managers/BDMs might be the right choice. I also recently hit upon this link: “Citrix Innovation Awards”. May be instituting such awards will helps us to consciously capture the user innovation. On the other hand there is other argument that the product should be flexible enough (often suggested API route) to facilitate innovative customers create sufficient value. My biggest hurdle appears to be capturing the customer innovation because we were never dearth of innovative customers though we have to be conscious of not losing them. To communicate the customer innovation to other stake holders (such as Sales, Account team, BDMs) we can effectively use monthly/quarterly newsletter. Our new letter will be refined to aid those stake holders to successfully use the information to generate additional demand for the product both with existing and new customers.
To be honest, I have not provided more ways to capture customer innovation. Guess, I am running short of ideas. I will possibly try to revisit this topic with more ideas on how to capture customer innovation. Since we are touching upon ‘Open Innovation’ it would only be appropriate to gather thoughts from others as well, so please drop your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org