You wouldn’t expect this to be the main piece of advice given by the very people of Mechdyne Corporation – a company built first on a passion for technology. But this was the key take-away offered by Jeff Brum, a Technical Sales Consultant with the company.
Mechdyne, an international hardware and software company with a focus on integrating emerging technologies has always been a company of technology leaders. Being the first company to develop a commercially available CAVE (Cave Automated Virtual Environment) system, which was shortly followed by a rear projected curved screen, and then a re-configurable immersive room, you would think that loving the technology is the first thing they do every day.
However, that is a trap, Jeff shared. Working directly with clients, Jeff has seen the trials and pitfalls a love of technology in a commercial setting can cause. He even brought an example of what he deemed a cautionary tale: The Cubic Mouse – a beautiful 3 dimensional mouse that allows users to interact with visualizations in a three dimensional way. It’s compact, well designed, and functional. It was also, it turns out, not in demand.
“First ask: who is your audience?” Jeff suggested. “Who is going to use this technology? Are they collaborating? Are they a technical person? How do you make it useful? What are their objectives? What is the underlying reason they want to use the technology? What does your client want people to get from interacting with the technology? Most importantly, what problems are they facing?” These are all important questions you need to ask at the beginning of your ideation stage, Jeff shared.
Once you have a technical solution in mind, you must ask yourself: “So what?” Ultimately if you can’t answer why someone other than you would care beyond the first few minutes, then you’re probably wasting your time.
“You need to be able to be able to communicate a use case for the technology. Even if the technology is cool, unless it serves a specific purpose, and does it better, or cheaper than anything else available, it’s going to be a hard sell.” Jeff shared.
Another important consideration is multiple user objectives – your audience is usually dynamic, with different ages, technological expertise, and life experiences. These are all important aspects to keep in mind when considering potential solutions.
One of the tools that Mechdyne uses to approach these problems is SPIN questions. These include Situation questions, Problem questions, Implication questions, and Need questions. Asking questions within this framework allows them to grasp the complexity of their client’s problem, and how best approach it. This forces them to move away from doing things just for the sake of doing it and focuses their attention on making sure that their business goals tie into their customer’s business goals.
Another question that businesses often fail to ask themselves is what is the opportunity cost, especially when experiencing problems. “Ask this question often and early,” Jeff suggested. “Businesses often fail to ask themselves if they are missing out on doing something better while they are working on this.”
When you make the client’s goals your own, you lower risk, and save time and money. That’s the value of blending your business goals with your customer’s goals.