“Faster Horses – Henry Ford and Customer Development” on CitizenTekk

A faster horse

Henry (“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”) Ford was not an advocate of customer development. Although there’s no evidence that he actually said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, it’s definitely congruent with other statements he did make.

My inaugural post on CitizenTekk discusses how to meet the needs of your stakeholders by defining the architecture of the problem rather than jumping straight to the architecture of the solution.


8 thoughts on ““Faster Horses – Henry Ford and Customer Development” on CitizenTekk

    • Thanks, Erik. No, I’ll contribute articles over there periodically as long as Beth will put up with me 😉 Getting asked to provide a guest post is a big honor, but this is home and I want to keep growing it.


  1. About the black colour – no connection to “…customer development”. At that time only one paint was available to match the speed (quick drying) of the Ford’s factory conveyor. This was the Japanese black lacquer.



  2. The concept applies to the “customer” of a software development project as well as the “customer” in terms of a startup or a business.

    The temptation to build what the customer asks for is strong enough that I’ve seen far too many projects skip straight to estimating the work involved in delivering customer requests. Some of those projects even managed to succeed. Some of them.

    The trick is to center the project requirements, and thus the project, around what the customer needs. Which is hard. And time-consuming. It requires someone to dig deeper into customer requests to find the underlying reason for the request.

    This is why I like the Scrum-style user story of “As an I need so that I can “. Working to give an accurate representation of and oftentimes adds clarity to the requirement and keeps the overall story need-driven, rather than request-driven.

    Sorry if that’s what your article actually focused on. I’m getting a 404 from CitizenTekk


    • Matt,

      Absolutely…I’ve long advocated that corporate IT should conduct itself as a vendor (even better is when there is actual competition with external vendors). This puts the emphasis on meeting the needs of the customer and actually delivering value (merely taking an order and responding with “too bad, that’s what you asked for” is neither).

      The key, in my opinion, is communication and collaboration. When the provider and the consumer work together, the potential for a positive outcome is definitely better.

      Thanks for the heads up about the link, I’ll check into it.


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