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Large-scale experiments reveal what customers really want


Researcher Aleksander Fabijan has shown how large-scale experiments can help companies provide better products and services.

“Every company will have some idea of what their customers want, but in ninety per cent of cases their intuition is wrong. In order to develop software products that are valuable to users, we have to ignore intuition and rely on hard data, " says Aleksander Fabijan, PhD student at Malmö University’s Department of Computer Science and Media Technology. Fabijan will be presenting this argument when he defends his thesis titled Data Driven Software Development at Large Scale.

The research looks into how and to what extent online experiments can be carried out among software companies. For three and a half years, Fabijan researched companies working with everything from surveillance and connected vehicles to search engines and apps.

According to him, very few software companies are sufficiently data-driven, despite the extensive research available on customers’ needs and preferences.

"Many companies think they need to make big changes to make an impact, but even experiments where you make small modifications in the design of webpages have proven to give lucrative results. Large companies test every little detail to understand how to provide users with the best possible content,” he says.

People before profit

The thesis presents detailed guidelines that instruct companies on how to adopt large-scale experimentation. The guidelines, which are easy to understand and use, describe how software companies can go from doing just a few controlled experiments to thousands.

“What makes this method unique is that it gives companies comparable and reliable statistics on what is most effective,” says Fabijan.

He hopes the study will empower software companies to become truly data-driven, stressing that profit is not the end goal.

“Of course there are companies that want to maximise their revenue, but most of the companies I work with are more interested in the long term value of retaining customers and making sure they get the best experience possible. The ultimate aim is to develop better software products and provide better service.”

Text: Magnus Jando

Last updated by Maya Acharya