If your job is developing custom software, whether as part of an in-house IT group or as a contractor, what are you selling?
According to Rob Vens’ post, “Software is not a product”:
The product of ICT is the process. Software systems are by-products. By focussing on improving the quality of processes, the quality of the by-products will improve more effectively.
While I agree that improving the process will contribute to customer satisfaction, I have to agree more with what Oliver Baier observed in “It’s the process, not the product”:
In my experience, clients still want to buy the results of the software process (e.g. an evolving web shop) rather than the collaborative design process yielding this result. This is despite the fact that software development processes and methods can be the subject of great debate at all phases of the sales and delivery process.
I would, in fact, go further: your customers don’t want software, they want a need fulfilled. Software is merely a means to that end. They don’t want a web site (though that may be what they ask for), they want sales, exposure, etc.
We shouldn’t get hung up on the issue of product versus service. We should realize that, ultimately, a product is a service. As Tom Graves noted in “Product and service”:
In essence, ‘product’ and ‘service’ are different views into the same entity: the creation and delivery (potential and/or actual) of value, usually associated with some form of asset – in turn typically as associated with some notion of ‘value-proposition‘.
Whether I’m selling new shoes (product) or repairing your old ones (service), the desired end result is serviceable footwear. Circumstances and desires may make the customer prefer one path over another, but the destination is functionally identical.
This is not to say that the manner in which the product/service is provided is unimportant. Quite the contrary, the better the provider is at working with the customers, the more likely the product will satisfy their needs. What it does say is that, first and foremost, the need must be satisfied. When the customer doesn’t get their expected value, then the process by which the failure is provided is irrelevant.