Who should define the product/feature requirements? Customers or …

Ask this question to a MBA grad and the typical answer you get to hear would be – It depends.
Depends on what? Well..lotsa factors..[and then starts the yada yada..regular BS].

So before I put forth my ideas, lets go back in time (4 years back) and answer the following questions:

  1. Does the world really need an online archive for URL bookmarks?
  2. Do you really feel the need for a new MP3 player, with no extra feature but just playing the mp3 files and maybe better navigation?
  3. What else would you like to do with your digital photographs, apart from uploading/sharing them in Y! photos?

And what could have been your reply?

  1. Bookmark for URL? Why do you need it?- Can’t you add favorite URLs to your browser? Why would you wanna share those with the world?
  2. Maybe storage space..and what else?
  3. Oh well – what else would you like to do with your photographs? Maybe printing? And?…Let me think!!

Well, the above features are of *milestone* applications like del.icio.us, iPod and Flickr – products which couldn’t have been thought of by the average user.

So what’s the point here? Should customers define the requirement?
Well, I say NO.
Because majority of the customers aren’t intelligent [if they are, why would Britney Spears top the most searched query in 2004/2005/2006?]. Forget about intelligence, majority are plain average guys and hence, you cannot really expect them to define a landscape changing product.

I agree that there should be customer engagement process (gathering feedback/focus group study etc.) but the responsibility of defining the features and coming out with creative solution should completely lie with the product team (to be more precise Product Managers).

And if one is really defining a damn sexy product, one should even bypass the customer feedback loop!!

Moreover, if customers/consumers define the product requirements – where is the WOW factor, the damn f**king cool factor?? The *haven’t-seen-it-before* look?

What do you guys think?