3 November 2009

Capability is as important as Customer

There’s a lot of talk about outside in thinking and design , and about transformation driven by customer problems. And this talk tends to disparage the approach of “look[ing] around at their capabilities and try[ing] to figure out how to fit them onto the market.”

This strikes me as the pendulum swinging too far the other way.

Yes, a sales driven approach to doing business is insufficient. But no, exclusively adopting a customer centric approach to business growth is equally silly.

Back in Marketing for Projects 101 we talked about marketing being a process of creating value for both the producer and the customer. Think about a simple, two circle Venn Diagram with the circles overlapping.

A market driven approach means building value for both the organisation and the customer. And this means that you need to understand both your customer’s needs and problems, and your own capabilities.

A simple example highlighting the capabilities point is Amazon.

  • Book publisher? Yep.
  • Cloud service provider? Yep.
Did you see that second one coming a few years back?

If Amazon had just focused on their customers (let’s say book buyers) how would they have spotted the great cloud utility opportunity in front of them?

The same goes for project teams and sponsoring organisations. Understand your customer’s needs and problems, but also understand the team and sponsoring organisation’s capabilities.

Know yourself.

Photo shared via cc at Flickr by  sylvar


  1. very good, thank you

  2. Anonymous12:07 am

    Capabiltiies Based Planning is the critical success factor in any complex project.

    Stakeholders, including the customers, are part of the capabilities process.

    Look for "cappability based planning" on google to see the source of this process that is mandated on all DoD 5000.02 prorgam. Our current USAF client, who is delopying a multi-billion $ "everything-over-IP" program makes use of "capabilities based procurement" as a starting point for all program and techncial work.

  3. Like the man said, Capabilities based planning is a critical success factor.

    Why do people ignore their capabilities?