The Whole Product
The “Whole Product” concept is often overlooked during the introduction of new technology products.
The term refers to the entire mix of attributes involving the product, that when present, provide the satisfaction expected by the consumer.
Almost always, when new technology is introduced, the Early Adopters willingly accept the “incomplete” product and will readily dive into troubleshooting and fiddling with the product to make it work.
“Whole Product” also equates to an “out of the box” operational status. The mainstream consumer expects to purchase and use the product. She should not be required to assemble, acquire other components, fix bugs, or troubleshoot to enjoy the benefits of a workable product.
Most new technology developers view the universe from their perspective. The developer doesn’t understand why the mainstream consumer doesn’t agree with the idea that this is new technology and is therefore may be delivered incomplete and with bugs.
This disconnect between the developer and the consumer is prevalent in almost all technology product introductions. For example, when Microsoft introduces new software, they follow up with new, ongoing versions and patches to fix glitches in the "incomplete" product.
We had a recent "Whole Product" experience with a client. We were moving new mobile application technology to the Mobile Network Operators (MVOs) such as Sprint, Cingular, Verizon, Orange, T-Mobile, etc. While the mobile technology is cutting edge, the Operators themselves are ‘mainstream Telcos” with the justifiable expectation that products / applications will work as presented and that promised expectations will be met.
Our client’s management personnel were all software engineers and never embraced the “Whole Product” philosophy. They delivered incomplete or poorly working applications, expecting that the Telcos would accept this failing as normal product delivery of new technology. Consequently, the company failed the MVOs' expectations and lost the required credibility - and sales - that could never be regained.
The lesson here is that when the mainstream consumer is targeted, the product must be 100% complete. The mainstream consumer is reached via the channel distribution system, and those distributors (Telcos, Retailers, etc.) who are ultimately responsible for their customers’ satisfaction must engage and sell the “Whole Product”.