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What Would Your Customers Say If They Heard You?

It may sound harsh, but I’d estimate that around 90% of the “big topics” that are discussed within the business change community wouldn’t interest end customers at all. This isn’t to say that the debates aren’t important, it’s just that the specific nuances that people get so heated about within the change community are just so unexciting to the folks who are actually on the receiving end of that change. If you’re trying to battle to book a train reservation and the website is so badly designed that you give up, you probably don’t care whether that website is developed and maintained using agile approaches, waterfall, “the Spotify model” or something else. You probably don’t care whether the webserver is “on-premise” or not and whether the development was conducted in-house or whether it was outsourced. You just want the website to work so that you can get on with your day—you just want stuff to work the first time, consistently. The technicalities of how that works (and how the tech and processes were delivered) are pretty uninteresting to most end-customers.

Of course, the very reason that the website doesn’t work well might be because of some kind of design issue which crept in because of mismanagement of one of those very issues I just mentioned, so there’s no intention to underplay them. However, in the same way, that you or I probably don’t think too much about the pipes that carry the water to our houses, customers don’t tend to think about the processes and technology that delivers a service to them until it goes wrong. The key then is to understand what is desirable from a customer’s perspective and consistently deliver it.


Customers are, after all, focused on achieving outcomes. They want to get something done, usually as effectively and efficiently as possible and then get on with their lives.

Organizational processes usually balance achieving something for the end-customer which also benefits the organization itself (e.g. selling a train ticket and operating a train service allows a customer to get to their destination while also generating revenue for the operating company).

Focus On Outcomes: The Jargon Doesn’t Matter

It’s really easy to lose sight of these business and customer outcomes. Buzzwords start to emerge and take on a life of their own. Projects get initiated to “create a profound digital channel shift on our legacy portfolio”. OK, I made that up, but it probably sounds familiar: the point is it is pretty meaningless to a customer. I’m not sure many customers of, say, an energy company have woken up and thought “I really want a profound channel shift today!”. They probably just want regular payments taken, on time, with accurate and predictable billing. If the organization isn’t doing the basics right, then it should probably focus there before it considers any kind of other major change.

Now it might be that providing an online presence is important. Certainly, I’m a customer that uses online services a lot, but the ‘win’ there is often convenience. The moment that convenience is compromised, I’ll revert to offline mechanisms.  We’ve probably all dealt with companies where the online route is just too complicated and long-winded, so what do you do? Pick up the phone…

This highlights the importance of knowing what different stakeholder groups value. Techniques like personas and proto-personas can be extremely helpful here, particularly when the goals of the stakeholder are clearly identified and shown. Empathy mapping can also be very enlightening.

Conclusion: Keeping The Customer (And The Outcomes) Close

In conclusion, it’s easy to get blind-sided by methods, tools, and approaches. These are all important, but they are a means to an end.  Keeping the customers and outcomes in mind, and gaining a deep appreciation of what customers actually want (rather than focusing on the internal jargon) is crucial.  There are many tools in the BA toolkit for this, and BAs are well centered to help keep outcomes front-and-center throughout.

Adrian Reed

Adrian Reed is a true advocate of the analysis profession. In his day job, he acts as Principal Consultant and Director at Blackmetric Business Solutions where he provides business analysis consultancy and training solutions to a range of clients in varying industries. He is a Past President of the UK chapter of the IIBA® and he speaks internationally on topics relating to business analysis and business change. Adrian wrote the 2016 book ‘Be a Great Problem Solver… Now’ and the 2018 book ‘Business Analyst’ You can read Adrian’s blog at and follow him on Twitter at