Microsoft's Nick Malik has written a thought provoking piece on understanding the customer and how EA should rise to the challenge of aligning Business and IT be focusing on the customer needs.
Essentially, I agree with the sentiment whoever i disagree on a couple of huge monster key points ...
1) I don't believe that the average customer is that tech-savvy! Yep, they dabble and it's enough to get by, but code up mash-ups ... are you joking? Seriously?
I can see how Microsoft's vision of the world could be slanted as most of the people they interact with have varing degrees of technical ability but as you can see from Bill Thompsons latest post the majority of people have a very low level of technical ability i.e. just enough to get them by and they learn just what they need to know by rote. Going to a website that is unfamilar to them is a mission.
2) Of all the things lumped on to the EA role we can't expect to be experts in what our customers needs as well, however we do need to understand them from a high-level. Another point is that they are rarely one type of customer. The trick is to get your business side of EA to get to know the areas of the business that communicate with the customers to help spot and react to trends, this is part of the 'Enterprise Drivers' activity part of EA, this could be a process or practice, or both, whatever works best in your organisation, but the health warning here is it can't be an ad-hoc activity. Reacting to the customers pulse is the whole point of what makes a company responsive to customer needs but you need to know about your current capability before you start to plan where you need to end up.
Granted how we interface with our customers needs to be a whole lot slicker. For example, I am amazed why web-sites have developed a similar look and feel for activities like e-commerce but haven't actually adopted the same look and feel that would bring even more confidence, stuff branding make that secondary! One of the basic successes of good UI design is consistency, just look at Microsoft Office and how many programs mimic it. But I'm going off track here. Thats a whole other post.
As far as I'm concerned there is no such thing as Customer 2.0, there is still and always will be Customers, it's dangerous to think there is any distinction. Knowing who they are is key, they are short, tall, fat, thin, old, young, tech savvy or tech-not's the thing is you can't put your customer into a category, give them options, choice, flexibility and simplicity ... but also face facts ... EA's aren't experts on Customers, our job is to listen and help the people in your business that are. Assume nothing!
Update: Nick has posted a clarification of his position on Kai, the Customer 2.0. I'm far more in agreement now with his definition. I agree that using Persona's is a great way for people to concentrate on a particular customer type but I still think you have some more work creating some more persona's because the simple fact is that you have varying degrees of IT literacy.