Unless you’ve been under a rock all day (or all your electronic devices had dead batteries), you probably heard about Steve Jobs’s announcement of the much-anticipated Apple tablet PC, the iPad. Silly name aside, everyone is rushing to predict what features of the tablet might impact the market—will it be the newspaper apps? The iBook program? The pricing model?
Despite the hype, I see the iPad accelerating a trend toward devices that support smaller software built by smaller developers. The “app” model, which depends on micropayments and mass accessibility, allows far more people (with or without technical backgrounds) become developers and sell their work. This trend and the increase in independent small-scale developers will affect the product development lifecycle and the way we think about customer engagement. Like what?
- Product development has already become more agile, with tighter feedback loops and more iteration, but the proliferation of app-heavy devices will mean another gold rush for developers and non-developers alike. As apps develop faster, consumers will learn to expect rapid updates and responsive improvements. To keep up, developers of every size will need to learn to harness customer feedback in all its forms—testing, online, twitter comments, blogs, and direct phone contact.
- Customer engagement has often operated under the assumption that customers are different and separate from developers. As more customers take part in the development process and more developers become influencers, the line between them blurs. Companies will need to pay attention to developers’ concerns (like those about the App Store approval process) in order to maintain a positive customer experience.
What’s it all come down to? A shorter product lifecycle and a mixed customer/developer base will require an integrated, intelligence-driven approach to be competitive.
What do you think? What are the best tools for keeping track of customer feedback over shorter cycles? How can customer engagement lend itself to developer engagement?