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Technology and the Market

Demand, Users and Innovation

Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh

The interplay between demand from the market, the role of users in shaping that demand, and the way in which these factors influence the innovation process has always been a complex one. This forward thinking book examines this interplay from a technological change perspective. The contributors explore the potential for rapprochement between economics, sociological and other social science disciplines in considering the allocation of resources and the making of decisions about technological change. The papers within this book represent a judicious blend of theory and empirical research and look at a broad range of innovations, markets and technologies in medicine, agricultural and food production, services and IT. Technology and the Market raises the question of the many ‘visible hands’ that are involved in linking technology and the market together.
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Chapter 10: Design in the IT industry: the role of users

Leslie Haddon and Gerd Paul


Leslie Haddon and Gerd Paul INTRODUCTION Currently there is a boom in the management literature on the topic of ‘customer-orientation’. A random exploration of some contributions shows that their arguments are often based on examples drawn from business cases or anecdotes of everyday experience and events where the customer was treated as a nuisance and his or her interests were not taken into consideration at all. These arguments then often go on to draw very general conclusions, making some critical notes on how to improve the organization of the production or of the distribution chain in order to improve the interaction between the customer related inter-firm departments. Such analyses often present examples of the ‘best practice’ which have been achieved by successful companies1 which, we are told, know how to segment their customers. It is pointed out how such firms employ adequate empirical methods to assess customer needs, define their marketing mix accordingly, run customer services well (for example, via hotlines, complaint management) and have incentives and programmes to convert their first contact customers into steady customers (RKW, 1996). In industry, especially as a consequence of efforts to promote Total Quality Management, programmes such as ‘customer focus’ have now been running for some years. But as we know from our own experience in the field of industrial software (Konrad and Paul, 1999), these have not affected market shares substantially. All the good advice offered in the business literature and in the discourse about customers within corporations seems to...

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