I love playing around with word groupings to describe NPD and business frameworks. They are almost as fun as TLA’s and FLA’s (i.e. three letter acronyms and four letter acronyms). I especially have fun with the “N” letters of XYZ – Remember the 4 P’s of marketing? (a.k.a. the marketing mix coined by Prof McCarthy in the early 60’s ). There is of course iNPD’s 7 Essential D’s (see earlier blogs), and the “I’s” have it too (also in an earlier blog – see I love this stuff!)
Not to get crazy but I was talking to a client not long ago and the question of what is the difference between Verification and Validation? While I was explaining the difference I started to talk about Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) as an essential input in defining and delivering Value to the customers. And if we can deliver value consistently then we achieve “Victory” by creating delighted customers who are happy to buy from us versus the competition. Yup – that’s what the 5 V’s are.
Another funny tie-in is that the symbol for the roman number 5 is — “V”. How about that – maybe there is something here worth keeping? Be that as it may, so what is the difference between Verification and Validation? And why is VOC essential in achieving Validation and creating Value?
Verification is simply evidence that the product was designed to meet the specifications defined in the product spec. It in itself does not tell us that the market will want or value the product, but rather that we have implemented what we said we would. Verification is also used to mark off the various check items in our process flow – that we followed the process steps we said we would to achieve consistent quality – good old ISO 9000 QMS stuff.
Validation on the other hand is evidence that the market and consumer actually value and want our product/solution. The ultimate validation of course is making the sales – lots of sales hopefully. Of course we don’t want to wait till the end of the development cycle to validate requirements. That can be pretty expensive and ugly outcome. In a product manager’s world, there is nothing much worse than launching a product that nobody wants or values. At that stage of the game there isn’t much you can do to change the product. Ben there, done that, don’t ever want to do that again!
What we would rather do is to get early user validation often using VOC techniques. Requirements need to be validated early and often. Especially when developing software/IT products where we don’t fully know what the market really values, especially if it’s a fast changing and evolving market landscape. Agile development is one of many methods to incorporate VOC early on into the development process.
VOC – now there’s a TLA for you. Voice of (the) Customer is kind of an unfortunate description because I have found that many developers think of it as only “asking” what the customer wants. And we all know (don’t we?) customers don’t know what they want – at least when it comes to defining innovative new things. While asking customers what they want it a very smart thing to do – and I recommend you do so – the average customer is not likely to be able to tell you what they really want much let alone create clear requirements for you. It’s not their job to tell you how to create winning products – that’s your job!
While customers can tell you a lot of things, they can’t articulate tacit information including how they really get the job done, and why they are doing that specific job in the first place. Or what really delights them and what really annoys them. Observing and listening is essential in understanding the true “voice” of the customer. VOC is a set of skills and practices worth learning and investing in to really understand what the customer is really looking for, and what the customer really values.
Ah there’s that word Value. Value is a frequently used term, yet the concept is a confusing one. According to R.J. Park (Value Engineering – A Plan for Invention), “cost is a fact; it is a measure of the amount of money, time, labor, and other expenses necessary to obtain a requirement. Value, on the other hand, is a matter of opinion of the buyer or the customer as to what the product is worth, based on what it does to him/her. In addition, a person’s measure of value is constantly changing to meet a specific situation.”
In other words – value and worth are in the eyes of the beholder. Value is more than a financial measurement, it is also an emotional response which can be hard to quantify. VOC techniques can help us uncover what motivates and delights the customer, and if we can quantify this into core requirements, we have a pretty good chance in developing and delivering value to the customer.
If we can deliver value consistently, we will achieve Victory!