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I think there is a fine line between clients contributing to a products’ development and client designing the product. Definately, clients should be contributors of ideas, but often they are not in the business of product development, usability or databases, so shouldn’t be ‘designing’ the tools.

Another way to put it, is “Just because I can drive a car, doesn’t mean I can design a car, and if I did, it wouldn’t be as easy to use, or as comfortable as a car designed by a professional car designer.”

Every day we have customers asking for different functionality, and often it contradicts other users requests. What I’ve discovered is that many clients have flawed processes, and rather than using the software to streamline and fix their processes, they want to modify the solution to fit their problem (but the problems are still there) – whereas they should be modifying their problems to fit the solution. (If nothing is changed – nothing is fixed).

We listen to customer feedback, but wait til about 20+ users have similar issues before we address it, and attempt to improve the application in the most unobtrusive manner rather than complicating with feature creep.

Take a look at what Salesforce are doing: http://www.salesforce.com/appexchange/. They’re letting the customers design the software, which results in a large amount of unsupported, badly designed applications. Also due to the business model (Hosted and part of the Salesforce service) you are essentially hijacked to their system. You could be 6x months in, and need to try a different system. Your data is stuck and can’t be used elsewhere, so if their prices go up, you’re at their mercy. Also, a quick look at the apps and you can see their are badly designed and complex to use.

Sure, you can (as a client) use systems like this to design your own ‘personal solution’, but you end up at the mercy of their technology, and invariably will have a less usable, unsupported system. Sometimes it’s better to be with the masses in a solution, rather than standing alone. The developers will always support a core system better than custom solutions and especially when ‘designed by clients’.

And lets face it, in this day and age of rapid change, it’s better to ‘stick with the masses’ where you have support and upgrades.

If you are a client, just be the ‘squeaky wheel’ to the software co… Annoy them enough and they’ll modify their application in your favour. Or put differently, “It’s better to be loud and have your suggestions heard by the software co, than to attempt to design the product yourself”.

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About The Author:
Julian Stone begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting is the CEO of ProActive Software, developers and creators of the leading web based project management software http://www.proworkflow.com.