When Geoffrey Moore wrote Crossing the Chasm, it was an instant classic. Not a week goes by where I don’t hear clients talking about we need to “cross the chasm” or we are “in the chasm.” The insights from it form the basis for the positioning work that we do with clients at Gartner. It’s insights are still applicable today.
One of the key areas of the book that is not talked about enough, in my opinion, is the idea of the “whole product.” Frankly, it should be cited and referenced as often as “the chasm.” The whole product idea really is, in many ways, the precursor to the whole customer experience movement. The idea—your product alone is rarely enough for a customer to capture value. It has to be surrounded by many other things (support, partners, implementation skills, etc.) in order to get value. Technology companies often oversell what their product can “accomplish” on its own and don’t think about the whole product enough.
But the whole product concept has changed industries. The whole SaaS movement could be viewed as being about the whole product. SaaS makes it easier for companies to capture value faster by taking on many of the tasks (implementation, setup, configuration, and ongoing management) that they used to have to do for themselves. SaaS products provide a bigger part of the “whole product” than on premise. That makes things easier for customers (sure there are other considerations and a SaaS product is not whole, but it does go further).
Now, we are entering the digital business era, and it would be wise for technology and non-technology companies alike to remember the wisdom of Geoffrey Moore (and Regis McKenna before him) regarding the whole product concept. As we design digital businesses, and digital business moments (note: I’ve just published a document on how providers can help their clients address the opportunities around digital business moments. You can find it here—a subscription is required.), the ideas behind whole product must be top of mind—what is needed to enable the customer to capture value completely. With the availability of sensors, event processing, and data analytics, are their ways we can take the business moment even further—and more completely, or should I say wholely, address their need or opportunity. This may require partnerships or acquisitions. Or, you may need to develop or actively participate in new ecosystems.
In the digital business era, no matter how big a role your product or service plays in the customer’s world, you will always be only a part of the whole solution and ecosystem. Now might be a good time to go back and re-read the “whole product” sections of “Crossing the Chasm”. Then think about Business Moments—make sure you are exploring them from a whole product perspective.
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