What do you want to give customers; bad or good news?

· December 6, 2013

We’ve just got our visas for entering Indonesia! Lovely!

But the process has been very long, trying and almost took the best out of us. It got me thinking about a big, and characterising difference between the agile and the non-agile approach (let’s call i waterfall for now, shall we?).

The process we went through for our visa application resembles the way many companies deliver software, sadly. Could there be another way?

When we applied for the Visas we were told that it should take about 2 months to get them. We acted accordingly and started to quit jobs, take kids out of school, end the lease for our apartment and a lot of other things - just to match that prediction.

But we got a couple of;

  • “it will probably take 2 weeks more”
  • “no news - probably a week or two more”
  • “well… haven’t heard anything yet - should be done soon”.

all of which just told us that this will take longer. And longer. And. Longer.

The whole process was convoluted to us to; it was about 5 individual steps from us to the person that actually had someone that they could ask about how things was going.

In fact, the whole setup of the process was such that we always would get bad news until our visas was done. You’ve already seen examples of typical “It’s delayed”-responses above but once you think about it even good news will not do much for you:

  • “it’s almost done”
  • “we have had a great week - made good progress on your file.”
  • “yeah, there’s a lot of things going on right now. Feels great!”

And then it struck me; I have done this (in the past). In IT! And I’ve seen this strategy being used, even lately, in companies. This is what happens with big bang releases where you build and build and build and then release the complete product.

Because, in my visa-process, there’s really just one thing that I was interested in; get the visa in my hand. Not until then could I book my tickets and go on my journey. I couldn’t care less that department X of the Y office has now started to work on my file. With intense enthusiasm and loving every minute of it.

So when we eventually got the visa the immediate reaction was actually “Well… FINALLY! That was about time!” (I don’t use curse words, but would have if I could. Here. And here. And a long one after this sentence. HERE!)

Summing up; setting up your process in a Big Bang fashion bootstrap yourself for a series of bad news that eventually will disappoint the customer.

Another way?

There must be another way… This cannot be the best we found so far. Sadly, as far as visa-approving-processes goes, I have not a clue on how to improve this. I do know that putting your customer and her needs first, aim to improve and CHANGE your process is a great way to get started.

However, I know a bit about doing this for IT. And if we CHANGED our process into delivering small increments (that’s working pieces of software to production, for the rest of us) frequently, starting with the ones that are most important to our business first… well then we have set ourselves up for a very different kind of experience for our customer.

Quite the opposite from the above in fact; with small frequent release you have a series of good news until, all of a sudden, you have exactly what your customer needed.

The million dollar question(s) is; which one do you prefer?  How will you CHANGE today towards that goal?

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