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The best innovations happen when business needs drive the technology, not the other way around. In this discussion, K2 CEO Adriaan van Wyk describes the magic of understanding a customer’s vision and building products that support it.
Q: You’ve used the term “magic” to describe the process of adopting a customer’s vision and then developing the ideal software product that will allow them to realize it. Why is that magic?
A: It’s the right word to use because taking a business need, crafting a solution, and giving it life with the ability to change itself as it moves through the organization is magical. In doing that well, you end up with something that has transformed and exceeded expectations. It starts with how we work with our customers. I’m a big believer that we don’t need to talk too much about technology or even product features to our customers. We speak with them about their businesses. If we understand what their needs are and how they want to work, that allows us to figure out the best way to empower them to do that.
Q: How does better information lead to a better outcome?
A: We said, “Let’s get back to the basic need to share information and make it incredibly easy for people to make the right decisions and be more effective at what they do.” Imagine I have a piece of paper with the information you need to make a decision – nothing more or less. I bring it into your office and you are able to make a good choice. But perhaps your choice now requires that someone get involved. I bring the paper to them but they need additional information in the form of charts and graphs. And it must be real-time. We’re talking about real ways to achieve this through modern technology and the result feels like magic.
Q: Because you’ve given them exactly what they needed?
A: Yes, and done it in a way where it’s more than what they wanted, in fact more than what they could have dreamed of at that point in time. I think that really is the best way to describe magic – as a child would experience it. If you walk up to a child and make a piece of candy appear behind his ear, that amazed look on their face is because something completely inexplicable happened. And that moment when they can’t exactly explain how it came about, but it’s better than what they wanted, that’s magic. It’s real. It’s not a promise. It’s not a picture of a piece of candy. It’s the real thing. Now obviously we all grow up and we get into companies and have real world, competitive business needs. But that experience is still at the base of what we strive to do in working to build magical software.
Q: Once you get the vision defined, how do you implement it?
A: Our entire organization thrives on the responsibility to understand what’s happening within our customers’ environments, and we work with a very talented group of people who understand how to take big challenges and break them down into small pieces that can be built quickly and delivered in a predictable way. If we take incremental steps in building something, it’s always as part of a coherent, innovative vision. Sure, we can try to take what’s out there today and attempt to build something that will partially meet those needs, or we can build something that’s better – that’s visionary – and people immediately forget what they thought was the only option move on to what’s newly possible. There’s a very important subtlety in this; it’s one that not a lot of companies fully understand. You must have a more creative and long-term approach in order to make vision reality. The result, well, that’s magical.