Thinking about “value”

The more I think about value the slipperier that word gets, but in a recent conversation something crystallised for me, a little crack in the facade of my naivety. I realised that when you’re serving businesses, value is realised differently for the client organisation than it is for the users in the client organisation. (It seems obvious now I write it down, but I’ll plough on regardless.)

At my organisation, VIP, we provide services around WordPress to Enterprise organisations. We think about “our client” at two levels: the client organisation and the users in the client organisation. The “client organisations” are the entities using our service to move their business forward (for whatever value of “forward” that they… ahem… value). The “client users” are the people up and down the client organisation that are trying to do their work harder, better, stronger, faster to create “value” for their organisation, and some of the time they’re using our services as part of their work.

When I think about the potential value in an opportunity, I’m now also considering whether that value is addressed directly to the client organisation, or is afforded to the client users, as well as the frequency or consistency with which value can be provided.

Consider a feature which your clients use only rarely, for example domain mapping. A domain mapping UI needs to be clean, usable, and validate inputs… but clients are unlikely to be mapping domains frequently, so improvements there need to be huge to provide value to a client.

(Of course this is simplified; while a feature may only be used once in the lifetime of a site, we may still need to prioritise it as a vital part of launching a site or unlocking some scaling challenge.)

Alternatively, consider an opportunity to address an issue or improve a workflow for client developers in the course of day to day development, for example syncing data from production environments to test a bug fix. The value client users experience when we improve data sync will multiply over many uses by many individual users across many client organisations. So while editing DNS is important and needs to be done right, the frequency of use of the data sync feature means the potential value provided is greater… so data sync will provide the greater return from the team’s attention.

There’s another class of opportunity, opportunities that open significant options for a client organisation to realise value, either by making something practicable which was previously out of reach, by reducing costs, by consolidating functionality under a single supplier, etc. An example here might be a hosting platform offering a fully integrated global CDN, meaning clients that significantly value page speed and customer experience no longer need to deal with the integration complexity of a third party CDN or pay for it. The right opportunity here can provide much greater value to our clients.

So, crudely, I’m thinking of three buckets, from good to better to best:

  1. Features which are only used once in the course of a client’s engagement with us, though these features may still need to be prioritised, e.g. if they are part of onboarding or some other vital process.
  2. Opportunities to improve workflows or address issues encountered frequently by client users in the course of their work.
  3. Opportunities which allow the client organisation to increase value, protect value, or reduce or avoid costs.

How am I doing? If you’ve got any thoughts on my thoughts, please add them in the comments here.

Photo credit: “Leap” by J F

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