A recent post encouraging proactive steps to gather the VOC leaves the issue of “who is the customer?” well alone, since a generic answer would be vague, it is heavily context sensitive. Many good ideas are presented here.
An intriguing point made here is that, these are solutions to a situation “…particularly where there is little time to do any early user research”. You must consider what is underlying such a train of thought carefully. I hear this sentiment sometimes and it is almost surely leading to building of the wrong product! So lot of activity will ensue, but progress in terms of generating ROI may is certainly not ensured! In other words it is a case of leap before you look. This is not to say what’s written in the above mentioned post is wrong, or that it is recommending ignoring user research. It just is trying to work around a poor decision.
As usual since my blog is about Scrum, here I’ll try to relate this situation with the product owner’s role. To cut a long story short, it’s the PO’s responsibility to bring the VOC into the project. Identifying and engaging with customer(s) or potential customers and the difficult balancing act that may be needed is in the PO’s court. Again it is difficult to provide general advice that is practical but it certainly helps to make as much activity around this as visible as possible. The transparency of such interactions will mean a very significant reduction in dysfunctional behaviour. So as far as the teams are concerned the PO is the customer, albeit, one who follows the rules of Scrum.