Good article in this week's issue of businessweek.com on Xerox customer focus. Their tech chief, Sophie Vandebroek, is pushing greater emphasis on customer focused design, bouncing new ideas around in focus groups attended by more than just Xerox marketing folks: they include Xerox "scientists and engineers... encouraged to meet face to face with some of the 1,500 to 2,000 customers who visit showrooms at the company's four global research facilities each year."
"Three years ago, a team of Xerox (XRX ) researchers came up with an idea for a new kind of commercial printer. But rather than follow the company's standard development process—build the prototype, then get customer feedback—they decided to hold focus groups with customers first.
"It's a good example of what Xerox Chief Technology Officer Sophie V. Vandebroek calls "customer-led innovation." The process played a key role in the design of the company's new duel-engine Nuvera 288 Digital Perfecting System, which was officially introduced on Apr. 18. Brainstorming, or "dreaming with the customer," is critical, she says. The goal: "Involving experts who know the technology with customers who know the pain points."
As noted, we have our own Frontline programme (noted here and here) where members of our engineering teams meet with customer service, field staff and ultimately spend a week on-site paired with a relevant customer. Interesting to hear how Xerox has developed/ adopted a similar practice.
On a related note, BusinessWeek has also published their World's Most Innovative Companies list for 2007 (complete listing is here, sans Xerox) -- Microsoft is #5. I noticed that 2007 is not yet over, so we should have six or seven more months for companies to move up and down the rankings.