Monday, August 31, 2009

The Ideal Customer. Vendors define who he is.

So many times I’ve reviewed web-based systems from common user’s perspective looking for solutions that correspond to their expectations. This time my aim is a bit different. The other thing which is not less important is the vision of IDEAL CUSTOMER vendors have.

I’d like to clear up which user type attracts them the most and whom they would like to deal with. Because all these hype "we can serve EVERYBODY and solve EVERYTHING" almost all vendors proclaim only puzzles users rather than shows what to expect from the service.

So, I asked main vendors to specify their IDEAL CUSTOMER picture and this is their description:

Chris Basham from TrackVia:
  • A business (not a consumer).

  • Rapidly solving a business-critical problem (not a minor issue, or simply building a list of items).

  • Needs a sophisticated workflow application where each item in the app is valuable to the business, and each item is frequently processed/updated, with event-based alerts sent to users.

  • Requires a highly secure platform, with 100% availability and fast response time (no downtime or slow page loads).

  • Values "astounding" customer support, including live phone support during business hours, and hands-on help.

  • 5 to 5000 users, of different levels of technical sophistication, will be working in the account frequently, with differing access levels to features, records, fields, etc.

  • The app is used by users who’re logged-in to the account (not by website visitors.

  • Treff LaPlante from WorkXpress:
    "WorkXpress is focused on providing programmatic-level functionality faster and more easily than if using traditional programming languages. Our ideal customer is either a non-developer who wants to produce superior software functionality or a developer who wants to greatly accelerate their software development timeframes. The ideal customer is typically creating software to automate one or two departments, or in smaller businesses they are automating the entire company."

    Frank Zamani from Caspio Bridge:
    "The right customer is one who has a relevant project and appropriate skills.

    As far as required skills, Caspio is a feature-rich and capable platform that is intended for tech-savvy business users. Tech-savviness is a spectrum, and depending on the user’s knowledge, or skills gained by using Caspio and our free training, they can learn to utilize more complex features to create truly sophisticated web applications. With this philosophy, customers don’t grow out of Caspio. There is always something new and exciting to learn and add to their web apps.

    As for the projects themselves, we strive to offer capabilities that most common internal and public facing applications require. In particular, we uniquely make it easy and affordable to build and maintain

  • mass-scale apps that go on to have thousands of named authenticated users, and
  • are deployed to customer’s own site in a seamless fashion.

  • For us customer size is of no consequence."

    Kirill Bondar from TeamDesk:
    "Our ideal customers are ones who set up an application themselves and get the most out of it. We've seen it many times: they start changing and tuning their application and can't stop because of opening possibilities to automate this and that and even more and improve it further, and quickly become addicted by the process. They enjoy the process of improvement because our customers are business people typically - not the developers - and the opportunity to do it themselves is like climbing the peak with ready application as the reward.

    Such customers will have two major advantages over the rest:

    A full control - they know how their application works and they do not afraid to change it.

    A speed - noone knows their business process better than they are; they do not need to write the specifications and explain it to developers, they just do what they need. They can try to do it in different ways to see what works best for them or quickly adopt their application to the changes in business process."

    Paula Selvidge from PerfectForms:
    "PerfectForms is designed with the business user in mind as the target audience. Our goal is to empower the person closest to the problem to create the solution that meets their needs.

    Now, with that said, I fully understand and agree that application development encompasses a wide range of unique skills. I think the complexity of the solution that the customer intends to build is a key factor for consideration. I feel business analysts tend to have the best broad skill set, in regards to identifying requirements, designing interfaces and understanding workflow which enables them to create, usable and effective, complex applications in tools like PerfectForms. Admittedly, it is possible to use any of these development tools to create some very poor applications. The inherent product challenge is offering the power and flexibility for more advanced users, while still providing an interface that supports less experienced or novice users. I believe PerfectForms is straddling the middle at this point but this is not where we strive to be. We will continue to enhance our product and find ways to effectively help those that don’t have the optimal skills for application development to build solutions that meet their needs.

    In terms of our market focus, we target SMBs. We are at a price point that falls in the strike zone for smaller group budgets, which tend to be business focused, so they are empowered to quickly purchase a tool that meets their needs without the lengthy enterprise evaluations. For those groups, they tend to select PerfectForms as a solution because they lack access to IT resources or are prioritized lower for development since their deliverables may not be as ‘mission critical’ to the organization."

    As you can see, the question is not that easy as it seems at first but some of them managed to shed some light on this point anyway.

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