How Customers Use Your Technology
When we build products we spend a great deal of time and effort thinking through how our customers will use them. From all this effort we believe that we full understand our customer and system interaction. The reality is often that we don’t know how customers will ultimately decide to interact with our system. An example of this is how social networking sites were originally intended for people to meet and interact. Soon after the launch of Friendster people began setting up accounts for their pets. This came to the attention of Friendster’s management and they began shutting down these “fake” accounts. This, as you can imagine, upset many of these individuals who thought their pets deserved to experience social networking but the point is that customers had decided to utilize the system in a very different manner than the company planned or even approved of.
The academic research that can be used to explain this phenomenon is adaptive structuration theory (AST), adopted by DeSanctis and Poole from Anthony Giddens’ theory of structuration. AST describes structures and agents, where there is a duality of structure that exhibit an interplay between the structures inherent to advanced technologies and those that emerge in human action with these technologies. Orlikowski also extended Giddens’ work into technology by examining how people enact structures as they interact with a technology that affect their use.
Back to our example of pets having their own accounts on social networking sites. Customers are going to adapt their usage of our technology based on our product’s design as well as their interactions with the product. Our responsibility is not only to focus on the customer during the conceptualization, design, and development phases of our products but also in the maintenance phase. Take note of how the products are really being used by our customers in order to not only support their use but leverage it for further product refinement.