Pull systems have changed the way organizations work and deliver products. After Toyota developed and applied the pull system concept successfully into their production processes, it has spread across various industries. The system offers a lot of benefits and it’s not surprising that so many organizations are using it today.
Тhe real benefit of the pull system is that it operates by receiving signals when more production is needed. In other words, work items are requested if there is an actual demand. The Kanban method is actually the first prototype of a pull system, which now has settled as a popular workflow management system in the manufacturing industry, software industry, marketing and etc.
So far so good. However, what makes a pull system extraordinary? Yes, it is the fact that it will make your production process more efficient. But what really matters is that it will help you produce an experience that your customers require and like.
Let’s see how this is possible.
From a Pull System to a Great User Experience
When we buy products, we actually look for experience. Think about it. If you have a family and you want to buy a car, you will probably choose a Volvo because it is safe, comfortable and reliable. The exact experience you’d want. If you want a fast smartphone, you will probably buy an iPhone because of its incredible operating system.
But how can a pull system help companies deliver a better experience?
This question has a simple answer. Establishing a pull system will help your organization focus on continuously improving products and mastering build-in quality based on customer’s demand and feedback. Furthermore, it allows you to step into your customers’ shoes and see what they really want. In other words, it will enable you to provide a better experience to your consumers and satisfy their needs.
Theoretically, it sounds easy. Does it work in practice?
Let’s explore, an industry that embraced the idea and shifted from developing products to creating experiences.
The “Pull” of the SaaS Industry
15 years ago the software industry was completely different from what it is today. We used to buy software products on hard drives, pay a license fee, then install them on our computers and that was it. No online support, no updates every month.
A lot has changed since then. Many businesses started developing the so-called software as a service (SaaS). SaaS products are web-based, users subscribe (usually on a monthly basis) and updates are released regularly. Today, there are hundreds of thousands successful SaaS products including some of the major players such as Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce.com, Amazon Web Services, Zendesk and so on.
Now here is the trick. The software industry started using the pull system concept for their internal processes, which made them more flexible and responsive to the customers’ requirements. This happened somewhere in the middle of the last decade when Agile methodologies were born. Still, there is a debate which method is better (Scrum, Kanban, XP, etc.), but what really matters is that these pull concepts totally changed the whole industry.
In reality, pull systems (e.g. Kanban) helped these high-tech organizations to evolve their way of work and pull new assignments as their customers require. Consequently, they started to improve the user experience of their products and this reflects as an increased customers’ satisfaction.
Let’s imagine that the software company X is using a pull system. What happens? In order to improve the quality of their products, they collect feedback from their customers. When they spot a great number of users who are complaining about similar issues, the company pulls those issues and starts working on them.
This way, the company actually structures their future work based on real customer experience. So at the end of each month, for example, the company can update their product/service and offer an improved user experience. Once the wheel starts rolling, you can only take advantage of it.
Nowadays, all we want as customers is a great experience. This counts for almost everything. Even if you buy a screwdriver, you want it to be strong, with changeable heads so you can use it on many occasions and equipped with a rubber handle against slipping. You want to have a good experience.
Obviously, the SaaS industry found a way to produce and sell experiences, not just products. So, we can actually call it Software-as-an-Experience (SaaE).
If you still have doubts, I have to mention that some of the brightest examples of software companies using the pull system concept are Microsoft, Facebook, Spotify, and SAP. And if you think that only software companies are clever enough to implement a pull system, think again, because companies such as Zara, Pixar, Dell and many others are also taking advantage of using it.
At the end of the day, pull systems can help your organization identify value where it really matters from a consumer perspective. So you can add this value just in time and turns it into a great experience on a regular basis. Additionally, by focusing on what really matters, your company can optimize its resources and efforts.
So, cut the waste, stop starting and start finishing.
And don’t forget, focus on customers’ needs.