running in a gear


“Customers are fundamentally changing the dynamics of the marketplace. The market has become a forum in which consumers play an active role in creating and competing for value.”

-Venkat Ramaswamy

Customers and designers work together to co-create innovative products

The need to co-create products and services is a new concept that is drawing more attention as organizations, on the road to economic recovery, look for effective ways to stimulate business growth. Francis Gouillart, author and blogger, recently posted on the opportunities and challenges faced by customers and engineers who work together to co-create cars that reflect specific customer needs and can be produced profitably (Engagement Platforms Must Enable Co-creation, Harvard Business Review, March 9, 2011).

To co-create, as Gouillart defines it, “is the gradual opening up of the lab and the engineering department to co-creation with customers and other parties”. He explains how co-creation is the foundation for an effective product lifecycle management process (PLM) because it “involves giving customers the right to participate in the design of their own experience, not only by giving input about what they like and don’t like as in traditional market research but also by giving them tools that allow them to become actual designers.”co-create

In using customer competencies in the development process, the role of product designer changes dramatically. Gouillart explains the shift of the role of the car engineer from design expert to mediator of the interactions between ‘imaginative customers’ and innovative suppliers of technologies and systems presents some difficult challenges: “Engineers love leather seats and shiny dashboards. They do not like Facebook chatter.”

Moving from the engineering of cars to other customer-driven industries, what is the value for organizations to restructure their product lifecycle management systems towards the co-create approach? With co-creation emerging in the market and changing the state of product development (and quickly gaining some serious attention) should we expect engineers to possess different competences- more socially savvy and customer facing?

To co-create means moving from an object-centered to a customer-centric mindset

Today’s web savvy consumers want to be active in the processes that ultimately create products and services that they want and need. Highly social, bold they openly share their insights through social web channels and engagement platforms or portals. They expect organizations that claim to be customer-centric will do more than give them a ‘voice’ by gathering feedback. They expect to be equal ‘partners’ and members of the teams that design and produce the products that they want. However, as Gouillart highlights in his article, this is a challenge for traditional organizations with rigidly structured design and production processes that focus on scalability.

To co-create effectively a more customer-centric PLM technology is necessary

“…product lifecycle management (PLM) systems — the computerized design tools used by engineers to design — remain object-centric and fail to enable the experiential dialogue that needs to take place between customers and designers…” – Francis Gouillart

Since technology is the main driver of the co-creation approach to development, technology must also facilitate and sustain strong partnerships. The system must be able to attract customers to co-create and provide the tools that make it easy to interact with the various social partners, such as, product designers, employees and software suppliers.

OneDesk takes the guesswork out of the product and service development process and facilitates co-creation by:

• Enabling the dialogue between customers, partners and employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.
• Provides the tools to effectively integrate data into the product and service development process.
• Effectively manage the PLM process from beginning to end, and enhance the often fuzzy front-end of innovation.

What are your views on co-creation? Are organizations effectively adapting to changing times? Are they well-equipped with the right technology to handle the changing needs of consumers?


  1. Claudio

    I have a question!
    Does de fuzzy front-end make part of the product lifecycle managament or is a pre-stage of PLM?

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