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Cindy Alvarez is a product manager who turns understanding the customer into competitive advantage. Currently the Director of User Experience and Product Design for Yammer (a Microsoft company), she has worked with early- and mid-stage startups as well as Fortune 500 companies to make customer development an ingrained part of company culture and product development process.
Cindy Alvarez is the author of Lean Customer Development: How to Build Products Your Customers Will Buy.
Cindy has been using customer development techniques for well over a decade, across a variety of roles and organization sizes. She hates that alleged Henry Ford quote "If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would've said 'a faster horse'."
After seeing many organizations struggle, she wrote _Lean Customer Development_ as practical, hands-on guide to effectively talk to customers. Through the tactics in the book, organizations will learn how to rigorously validate their ideas, differentiate customer 'wants' from 'needs', and build constant learning into their product development culture.
Cindy earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Harvard University, where she gained equally valuable insights working as a computer support tech. After college she moved to San Francisco, where she has worked in interaction design, customer research, and product management for both startups and Fortune 500 companies. In her current role she runs user experience and product design for Yammer (a Microsoft company) and evangelizes lean tactics throughout the company as part of Microsoft's UX Leadership Team.
She writes a blog on user experience, product management, startups, and managing at: thttp://www.cindyalvarez.com
Full disclosure, I have Lean Analytics and UX for Lean Start-ups. I love those 2 books. My analytics side wished there was a title to help with one of the biggest challenges, defining the customer. Low and Behold, Lean Customer Development comes out. I have already read the book in the first 10 days and am now starting to read it again. Making notes, and planning my projects. If you are looking for, probably one of the best titles on defining your customer, and step-by-step methods to do it, pick up this book. Pro’s - The author talks about interviewing, how to do it, some questions to get you started and walks you through it. - The descriptions offer you a way to tell if what you are planning to do really does make sense. If it does, great, if it doesn't, what you can do to address this and really find you niche. Con’s - Now this isn't really a con, but be prepared to learn. This book has a great deal of depth and breadth. I would suggest reading it once, then going back with a notebook to really plan your project with it.
I have founded companies and helped others do the same. If I had this book years ago, it would have saved huge amount of time on 2 businesses that investors thought was a good ideas, but we figured out there were some key issues that, if we identified them earlier, would have saved us a lot of time and $$$.
I would recommend this book to: 1. Anyone starting a business 2. A person in a large company planning a new product or service 3. A person that has a business that is 0-16 months along and wants to see how they might be able to do more-better-faster
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Originally Posted At http://www.russelldyas.com/2014/07/20/lean-mean-customer-development-machine/
Give Me The Basics? - Customer Development Is All About Testing That Hypotheses. Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez is one of the latest releases from the O'Reilly Lean book series with each release focusing on a different element of the Lean Startup Model. The earlier books have included titles such as Lean Analytics and UX for Lean Startups, and this books focuses on how you can integrate customer development into the product life-cycle. The idea of customer development as described by the Lean Startup model is that a startup business concept is just a series of untested hypotheses, and that the Customer Development process is way of testing and validating each of those hypotheses to discover the correct model.
What Do You Like? - Providing A Complete Guide. No matter if you work for are a startup company or established organisation this book has chapters devoted to enterprise size companies. The book has case studies throughout and includes practical advice. To help reinforce the knowledge the author has included takeaways with the key points from the chapter. The book impressed me as it provides a complete guide to the process from the start of a customer development project right through to the end.
Give Me The Low-down On One Concept From The Book? - It's All Problem Solving. I am a true believer of the context driven testing model and the fact that "The product is a solution. If the problem isn't solved, the product doesn't work." A similar concept runs throughout the book about finding the true problems the customer is facing and how customer development can help you find that.
To me this book is a how-to on learning marketing lessons on the cheap. In other words, it breaks down the process one would go through to tailer their business offerings into something customers actually will buy. The idea is to get to that point through minimal time, money, and friction.
This method of tailoring one's offerings changes the way we think. Instead of trying to persuade a customer, we are instructed to think of our interaction with the customer as an experiment. Everything we do to connect with the customer is meant to be a learning experience.
I believe this book is helpful because it gives the reader a purpose to every customer interaction. This is a way to think and it is a process of questioning and probing for solutions.
Also by the author: Pragmatic Marketer Winter 2013
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Great information about developing your products based on what customers will buy - not because it's what they say they'll buy, or because they say they need a feature or widget that they probably don't, but because, in talking to them, you'll find pain points in their life that you can solve for.
While pretty focused on customer interviews, I found fair sized chunks of it fairly repetitive, and also other parts glaringly obvious. In a nutshell, the book would be "find potential customers to talk to, ask them how they accomplish things, and in doing so, you'll figure out what needs they actually could use a solution for." However, in the "find potential customers" part of the book, parts of it are quite useful and especially important to someone new to this type of interaction. Then again, there are numerous pages devoted to how to use various website...like LinkedIn, that draw away from what should be the main focus.
The "how to interview" part is probably the most important, and is a reminder to ask open-ended, non biased questions simply so you can get an understanding of what the person does to accomplish whatever it is that you want to fix for them. Very important notes, but then again, if you've taken an introductory psychology course in college, it's pretty much a review.
All in all, the book achieves its goals of defining ways to get organizations to build better products (by better, I, and the author, tend to mean "something someone will actually want to use") and thus get more sales. Recommended, but if you already have an established customer base, I would also recommend getting The Billion Dollar Paperclip: Think Smarter About Your Data. It's not exactly supplemental or related to this book, but it's another important way to think about why and how your company is making money.
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