Episode #789 Cindy Alvarez: Lean Customer Development

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Moe and Cindy Alvarez discuss how to develop products that people will actually use and buy.


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Cindy Alvarez

Director of UX at Yammer View Full Profile

The Lean Customer Development Method

Written by Moe Abdou

The name Intuit is synonymous with Turbotax and Quickbooks, the software that simplified the tax preparation process for both the preparer and each of us filing.  Since 1983, Intuit has been the undisputed leader in personal financial management software, but take a peek inside their hallways on a typical Friday and you’ll get a glimpse of an innovation factory that never stops trying to improve the lives of its customers.  It started with the ‘follow me home’ philosophy in which an Intuit associate spends as entire day at a customer’s home or office observing their every interaction and searching for clues that would enable Intuit to add greater value and improve that ‘customer’s financial life so profoundly she can’t imagine going back to the old way.’  

Since its founding, innovation has been a way of life at Intuit; and so is the Lean Startup concept - getting out of the building.  “We pride ourselves on two core capabilities that differentiate us and allow us to deliver solutions that truly change people’s financial live...”  President and CEO Brad Smith is often heard saying, “...The first is customer driven innovation, a mindset and methodology that helps us uncover important, unsolved problems.  Customers are at the heart of everything we do.  We conduct nearly 10,000 hours of follow me homes a year where we observe customers where they live, work and do business - from home offices and coffee shops to rural farms in India.”  The genius behind their approach is hardly the products themselves; rather it’s the intimacy with a customer whose lifetime value will trump the one day spent with her.  

In her book, Lean Customer Development:  Build Products Your Customers Will Buy, Yammer’s Cindy Alvarez shares how with this simple experiment, you can model Intuit’s approach.