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  6.18. Motive Communications and the Virtual Prototype (5 min.)

Motive Communications is a company that successfully applied these ideas. Motive Communications, which was founded in the late 1990’s, tried to tackle the burgeoning problem of offering tech support. At the time, tech support was a $69 billion market (big market), expanding rapidly (growing market), and with some vendors in the call tracking space, but few in the tech-support automation space (moderate competition). More importantly, tech support was becoming radically inefficient (big problem). Indeed, tech support was being solved largely by a rapidly growing and expensive cadre of support personnel who would get on the phone, spend a good deal of time interrogating customers about their system, and then try to solve their problem by trial-and-error based on their own exposure to similar problems. As computers became more complex and the knowledge-base expanded, tech support was becoming a massive headache for many organizations.

Prior to founding Motive Communications, the founders, including Mike Maples Jr., did an extensive search to identify and test customer pain. This included identifying twenty different customer pains, which they tested with experts and customers in the industry before finally settling on the problem of tech support. In reflecting on this time period and the search for tourniquet.pnga problem to solve, Maples recalled that they weren’t just looking for a pain, they were looking for a tourniquet - something so painful that the company needed a solution immediately.However, when it came time to test their solution, Mike and his team applied three progressive tests. In the first test, Mike and his team didn’t build the product yet. In fact, one of the founders, Scott Harmon, recognizing the importance of understanding the danger of building a product, first mandated that “no product shall be developed prior to customer input.” Instead, the Motive team focused on testing their hypothesis about the solution. To do this, the team decided that both phone calls and on-site observations of how their customers currently solve the problem were going to be necessary. As you may remember, at this stage in the process you should be focused on listening, and that is precisely what the Motive founding team did. In particular, during the on-site visit, the founding team spent most of their time watching support engineers do their job.

Several important insights emerged. Most importantly, they found that support engineers spent up to 75% of their time figuring out the level of service a customer was entitled to and the details of the customer’s computer system. Although Mike and his team had hypothesized that they could apply software solutions to improve the IT support process, not until they began to test their solution hypothesis did they see the problem and solution clearly. Suddenly the team realized that the root problem was one of communication, and if Motive could automate the communication process around identifying the service level and the system specifications, they could cut out a massive portion of the time and cost of the process. The insight was staggering. In a $69 billion industry that was growing rapidly, they were just beginning to discover a solution worth close to $50 billion in savings to the industry.