Getting confidence in the value of your data

(As shown to customers in your UI)

I'm talking to a prospective SAAS client right now, and they're trying to expose some analytics on their customers' data so that the customers can derive ROI from the SAAS on their own. The intent is that the data can also be useful to the SAAS sales team, as a tool to help prospects understand what the possible ROI might be.

I had a question for Dave around whether the project would be successful if we talked to the users, designed a bunch of interfaces, solicited feedback on the design outputs, and found out that the data, while interesting, didn't really help the customers derive ROI. Would the design engagement still be productive and a success in the end? Ultimately, I didn't want to take on a project if we had hunches that the data we had, while being the best possible available data and elegantly presented, may not help the end user or buyer calculate ROI.

Here's what Dave told me:

Yes, the design engagement would still be a success. It provides us a punchlist of what else we need to do, which is in-and-of-itself is useful; and presumably defines what the analysis/reporting needs would be once we get that data. Less of a success, or more of a delayed-gratification one, but still useful.

I thought this was interesting to share, and I hoped Dave would say this because it shows that sometimes, you have to do some design to figure out what the final design needs to be. You can't always plan ahead what the right solution is and moving from designing on assumption to designing on fact is powerful information to inform your product.

Conversely, you can also spec out the entire project, including all the data/queries that customers said would be useful, write it into a spec or backlog, code it up, skip design, and then still have it not be successful because customers couldn't actually experience the ROI that your data was supposed to convey. A product backlog does not = a viable product. It's just a bunch of user stories or features. The glue holding them together, and what helps customers realize the ROI, is design.

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