A recent post over on the HBR blogs documented Cue Ball‘s three minute rule that they encourage their portfolio companies to adopt. According to Cue Ball, the best way to not only develop a customer-driven approach, but to truly develop customer understanding, is to use the three-minute rule where you ask your customers what they are doing three minutes before they use their tool and three minutes after.
The example they give is that, at Thomson, one of the products provides investment analysis of financial earnings data. What Thomson hadn’t fully appreciated — until they applied the three minute rule — was that immediately after accessing the data, a large number of analysts were painstakingly importing it into Excel and reformatting it. This led Thomson to prioritize developing a more seamless Excel plug-in with enhanced formatting capability. The result, an almost immediate and very significant uplift in sales.
If your software vendor uses the three minute rule, then they understand how you use each of their various modules and the integration will allow you to flow from one to the other without having to manually cut and paste data, wait thirty to ninety seconds for new modules to load, or load up Microsoft Office to complete a basic task. Furthermore, they’ll understand what applications you’re using before and what applications you’ll be using after and include easy import and export features that make importing data from the predecessor application a single click and make exporting data to the next application a single click. If switching modules is a pain, or importing and exporting is a nightmare, your vendor does not follow the three minute rule and it might be time to reevaluate your platform choices.