With 84% of customers saying their experience is just as important as the product or service they purchase and threatening to switch companies if that experience isn’t up to par, the customer experience is being taken very seriously. Even for the most technical of products, some CIOs are requiring that their engineers think of the end result/perceived value of a product before they’re even given the go-ahead to pursue development. 

The technique — known as “working-backward,” pioneered by Amazon — requires engineers and others to first write a one-page press release outlining the capabilities of a specific product. The goal is to get employees more into the minds of the end consumer and think about their wants as they’re pursuing technical aspects. 

The exercise solves a growing problem that hinders many advanced tech projects: bridging the gap between the wants of the tech team and the needs of the business. And it’s a key reason why Prakash Kota, CIO at Autodesk, uses it. He spoke about the technique in detail during an episode of the “Modern CTO” podcast last summer.

I ask them, ‘What will be the minimum business value that users will be excited about to consume it?’ Then we look at, ‘Is this what customers are looking for,’ whether it’s internal or external, and then we prioritize.

The practice helps guide the initiatives through development. When issues or questions arise, Kota and his team will reference back to the press release to make decisions like whether to expand the scope of the project. 

At Autodesk — a software company that sells design and production programs for industries like engineering, entertainment, and construction — the working-backward philosophy helps answer questions like: Is the product going to replace a different tool? Is it going to add new capabilities? What does the consumer base look like?

The process forces engineers to begin thinking like the business side. If the press release is being geared to a certain persona, you’re going to have to think like them — or talk to them.

Rather than talking about technology, you’re talking about customer value and business problems, which is like music to my ears when I start hearing engineers talk in that language and begin to understand the client’s needs.

Kota’s also brought this line of thinking into internal products, creating a Help Hub self-service tool that allows Autodesk staff to send in HR, procurement and IT requests, and factors their personas into the system for recommendations on apps. For him, it’s about giving them greater control over their tech stack and increasing adoption by letting them choose what tools work best for them. It’s not about using certain technologies or aspects – it’s about serving business to ensure end users get value out of what they’re using and creating an environment where their needs are put first.

Listen to more of Prakash Kota’s episode on the Modern CTO podcast here >

Read more about his ‘working-backward’ initiative in Business Insider >

Pamela Seaton
About Pamela Seaton

Pamela is a journalist and technology enthusiast writing for the growing business systems community.