“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer” – Peter F. Drucker

Today, I read an interesting quote today from one of Bob Marshall‘s blog posts that really got my brain cogs working…

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”
                                                                          – Peter F. Drucker

The reason that this quote struck me was its sheer emphasis on the importance of the customer, being the purpose for business. Hinting that all of our business decisions should be based around our customers. And I’m assuming that “customer” implies both customers and users (as they could potentially be different stakeholders).

I can relate to this quote when it comes to emphasising the importance of thinking about quality.

The challenges that I see in lots of companies, surrounding product throughput over product output and the way that we strive to speed up our development processes, sometimes pushing quality aside… it makes me wonder if businesses have lost sight of the purpose of the business in the first place in relation to the quote? Or did they ever have a focus on their customer’s happiness? Looking at some startup companies out there, I guess that’s debatable.

Also, if you think about Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment, many people can’t even tell you what the difference is between these two processes and where sapient testing fits into them. But yet there is an urge from these same people to continue to drive ahead at full speed to implement these processes in order to speed up the throughput of their product releases, putting their companies at risk… But that’s ok right, because that other book or blog us told us that “as long as we fail fast, then everything will be ok“. [face-palm]

How did we get here? Is it because people hear about new processes and methodologies and want to jump on board without learning about them? Is it because of misconceptions that people have about various aspects of the industry? Or is it because the customers aren’t actually the number one purpose for the business anymore (if they were at all)? If our software wasn’t of a high standard, would our customers still use it? Does any of this matter?

I guess all of these questions depend on what the software is, who the customers and users are, and how the business actually makes money. Companies like Facebook and Google to a degree appear to make their money from advertisements and other means rather than directly from their users. So maybe that’s the reason why Facebook don’t seem to employ anyone that specialises in testing. But is it right that other companies, who do make their money from their customers and users, attempt without question to model their processes based on Facebook just because it’s seen as a successful company? To these people, I wish I could say: “Open your eyes! Your context and situations are completely different!!”

I’m interested to hear other people’s perspective on this “throughput vs output” debate, and what you think of the quote… Whats the first thing that springs to mind when you see it? Have you seen or experienced some of these problems? What’s your thoughts and opinions of them? And how do you think these problems can be overcome?

4 thoughts on ““The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer” – Peter F. Drucker

  1. I can totally relate to a lot you’ve mentioned Dan. We implemented the Lean Startup approach at a previous company I worked for (for context this was a well established online business). Unfortunately some people in the product development team took this as a green light to just get stuff out as quickly as possible without actually…really…painstakingly…assessing the impact on the user. Thinking back this actually included a team I was leading at the time. Shame on me.

    So what went wrong? I’m a tester after all and should’ve been waving the quality flag at all times. I guess we were just experimenting with this cool new thing called the lean startup and we were discovering what it truly meant. Whilst my team felt unbelievable empowerment to make their own decisions on product roadmap, something they had never done before, it became really counterproductive. At one stage I can guarantee we were delivering stuff that did not make the customer happy – it just pissed them off. Yet we were delivering stuff at a fast rate because we could. High fives all round. Hmm.

    I’m a fan of fail better and learn fast. I don’t buy into failing fast at the detriment of the customer. I used a quote the other day during a presentation:

    “Failure is good as long as it’s not the customer who is failing”

    However, that Drucker quote is way better. Throughput should definitely take tips from Output.

    I believe it’s up to leadership to inspire their teams about the importance of quality and this can only come from the whole team working insanely close to their customers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this “the customers aren’t actually the number one purpose for the business anymore (if they were at all)?”

    A lot of organisations work in silos, isolated from their customers. The larger the organisation, the harder it can be for those actually doing the donkey work of building the system to really know or understand what the organisation’s customers are looking for, because there’a s separate customer service department or separate market research department. Or even on a smaller scale it can often be the product owner or project manager who has the customer contact, and the rest of the team don’t get to talk to the customers much.

    When the people making a product don’t have that feedback loop then they tend to just make something they think is cool, or whatever’s easiest to implement, and the product is no longer being made for the customer. It’s quite easy for a team to just roll along happily doing what they believe to be a decent job and assume that customers will share their view.

    Even testers can be guilty of this mindset, we complain about bugs which happen to have annoyed us us even without considering what the priorities are for the real end-users.

    One solution I would suggest is remove the artificial barriers of only having one point of customer contact in a team, and allow developers and testers to talk directly to the customers and ask questions. Also, we need to build in feedback features into our products – user surveys, user forums etc to allow our customers to have their say – and then distribute those results widely.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can agree with Jenny. I have worked in companies that developed fancy functionalities that the customers complained about. Updates and upgrades that nobody needed or used.

    I worked once with a application that had around 50.000+ users. In 3 years there was no survey or feedback in regards to how the regular user uses the application, what they appreciate or not. The solution was to implement a “Google analytics” like functionality that gave us a lot of information about what the users are doing but nothing about their actual need.


    1. Hey Claudiu,
      Thanks for the comment. One question I have for you and for Jenny too – who supplies the ideas and needs of the new requirements that you started developing?

      I’ve experienced this situation myself, and I’ve been flabbergasted at the fact that the business had pushed for new features without even talking to the customers and users. Its fine to have ideas, but without consulting with the stakeholders of the software to confirm the usefulness and need of that idea, before implementing it, doesn’t make sense.

      But I’ve also experienced difficulties with people not listening to this concern… Did you manage to encourage a change of mind set in your organisation?


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