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Unexciting Thresholds

Kano analysis, named for Professor Noriaki Kano, is helpful for figuring out what features will have the greatest sway on customer satisfaction. The approach uses five categories for considering satisfaction: Exciters (or Delighters), Performance, Threshold, Indifferent, and Reversed (or Questionable). These categories have been translated into English using various names, so you might see Kano grids using somewhat different terms.

When we are thinking about a new product to bring out to the marketplace, we often get caught up in imagining all the outstanding new features the customers would love to see, and our sales folks would love to talk about.  These “exciters” are fun to design, fun to bounce off of stakeholders, and fun to develop. When everyone is kicking the new stuff back and forth, it can be hard to give the right level of attention to those things the product just HAS to have – the “threshold” features. I was reminded of this when I heard about one of our customers who recently was working through a feature set for a next release, and was trying to figure out what could be cut.  Somebody suggested dropping some security features—after all, they aren’t seen by the end user—and the person representing Governance, Risk, and Compliance pointed out that it was simply not an option to skip those features. The customer might never realize those new features are there, but NOT having them there could result in a huge and long-lasting dissatisfaction should an attacker successfully take advantage of a security vulnerability.

Getting the fundamentals of a product right, at an early release, makes it easier to keep up with the threshold requirements and allow more flexibility in delivering exciting features. I’ve seen firsthand how hard it can be for a product to get “behind the curve” and have to play catch-up in correcting their foundation code. Being in a rush to get a product out can cause shortcuts to be taken, and those shortcuts can result in weaknesses that become more and more painful to deal with over time. The Business Analyst has to take care that the right balance is struck when forming the set of requirements and features so that the threshold needs are met.

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