Customer-Oriented Product Development: Embracing the NIHITO Principle
Have you heard of the NIHITO principle? NIHITO stands for Nothing Important Happens In The Office, and is about turning your gaze towards the market when developing products and services. With this method, you put the communication with the customers into a system, and the aim is to understand the needs in the market better.
If you work with product development, NIHITO is something you should familiarize yourself with. In this blog post, we will explain in more detail what the NIHITO principle is all about, and we will also talk about how the product department in Milient works according to NIHITO.
First of all: What is NIHITO?
NIHITO is based on the idea of listening to the users of your product. The statement that "nothing important happens in the office" refers to the fact that you should understand the needs of the market when developing products. You won't get that insight by just talking to each other internally in the office: You have to communicate with those who use the product and gain insight into what challenges they have in their everyday lives.
Customer contact put into system
The central principle in NIHITO is to systematize contact with customers, and actively use the information from them in product development.
You are probably in contact with your customers every now and then. But how often do you actually talk to them, and what do you do with the information you get? With NIHITO, customer contact is prioritized and put into a system.
Set up a system for customer contact:
- Frequency: How often will you talk to the customers?
- Platform: How will you talk to the customers? E.g. digital meetings, physical meetings, telephone conversations or user groups
- Content: What questions should you ask?
- What do you do with the information collected?
Be realistic about how much NIHITO work you have time for. Feel free to start by setting up a few meetings. A little is better than nothing!
Would you like some more advice on how you can work smarter with the projects? Check out these guides from Milient.
NIHITO in Milient's product development
In Milient, the NIHITO principle is an integral part of the product development process, says Tina Andersen, CPO in Milient.
“This means that we make it a habit to speak directly with our customers regularly. We arrange regular meetings, both digital and physical, where we discuss needs, challenges and requests.”
Everyone in Product Management in Milient chooses a NIHITO theme for the quarter, and then makes a certain number of customer calls on the chosen theme. At the end of the quarter, the department gathers for the "NIHITO readout", and shares the insights they have gained through the customer conversations with each other.
Tips for questions to ask in a NIHITO interview
The questions asked in NIHITO interviews depend on the purpose. "Sometimes we need concrete input on a functionality", explains Tina. "The product developers may also have a specific customer problem that we want to discuss and understand better so that we can come up with appropriate solutions to the problem."
In some NIHITO conversations, questions are asked that are more open-ended, such as "what are your strategic focus areas for the next 1-3 years?" or "what keeps you up at night in your role?".
NIHITO makes the product development more data-driven
The Product Management department in Milient works data-driven, and the NIHITO conversations are one of several important drivers behind product decisions.
"With direct feedback from the customers, we have been able to prioritize development based on real needs instead of assumptions," says Tina. “This has not only improved our product portfolio, but also strengthened our customer relations. We feel that the customers feel valued and listened to, and we are grateful to get valuable insight directly from those who know best the everyday working life we are going to improve".
NIHITO can be used by several departments in the business
The NIHITO principle can be advantageously used in more departments than the product developers, says Pragmatic Institute (external link). For example, the sales process can be improved by systematic customer contact: By mapping out why you win or lose deals, it will be easier to perfect the sales process.
It is typical for most companies that only the salesperson who worked on a deal speaks directly with the potential customer. If the customer declines the agreement, only the seller will be told the reason for the refusal, and the seller's perspective will influence how the information is passed on to the rest of the organisation. If a neutral party from the business is allowed to speak directly to the customer who was lost, valuable information can be gathered that can be used in the work to develop the sales work and services.