As a photography enthusiast I excitedly purchased my first digital SLR camera several years ago to take family photographs. The image quality was great, but there were dozens of poorly-designed features that made using the camera difficult. For example, every time I wanted to override my automatic exposure setting I had to navigate through several menus. When I was finally ready to photograph, my two-year-old subject was in a different zip code. As a result, many of my family photographs from that era were contrived, and often required candy bribes and stuffed animals to complete. I knew what to look for the next time I purchased a camera and with the right tool, I was finally able to start taking the candid photographs I prefer.

I bet you have had a similar experience in your personal or professional life; a product that doesn’t quite let you do what you want it to. As a Product Manager, I understand that companies want to create products their customers will love, but often wind up missing the mark. Why is that the case? In my experience, there are two primary reasons. Companies either don’t understand what their customers really want, or they can’t deliver what they want fast enough. I’ve been fortunate to experience how the Pharos Beacon cloud platform can help overcome these problems.

No product can deliver everything that all users are looking for, but the ability to quickly design, build, and refine a product directly with customers gets us closer to that ideal state. This cooperative process brings together the latest technology from our software engineers, the voice of the customer, and frequent refinements of both. It can be exceedingly tricky to communicate product needs when there are a variety of different users trying to solve different problems as technology changes quickly. By using the product itself as a communication tool, it’s much easier to build value across a wide range of customers and users.

With Beacon, customers have expressed the need for advanced cost controls, the ability to assign users to specific departments and locations, the ability to send automatic notifications for device supply and service issues, and other features. For all product improvements, we strive to fully understand the needs of our customers and then continually test and improve until we deliver the best solution. We know that to be successful, our products must be built upon this kind of partnership with our customers.

I’ve had the opportunity to experience firsthand the benefits of customer-driven Agile development. When we built the first release of Beacon Fleet Manager, we had a set of grids in which users could view all of their devices and important details about them. In conversations with a wide range of customers, we began to explore the concepts of building in print strategy and user-defined targets, to provide more direct guidance and help users meet their strategic print goals. The result was our Fleet Manager Dashboard, which we constantly refine to meet the needs of our customers. Pharos has made a significant investment to use this practice for all of our products, and we will continue to learn and improve upon the process.