Realizing that observations OF customers are often a better source of discontinuous innovation than observations FROM customers, IBM was one of the first of now many software companies that utilize an online channel to provide downloadable beta version software to registered users for tracking usage and gathering feedback, both explicit and implicit. Such companies are better able to gauge market potential and correspondingly accelerate or terminate development of projects. Other companies such as Engelhard also utilize online design portals. They do this in order to gain insights into customers technology strategies and reduce prototype development cycle times for physical devices such as automotive catalytic converters. In this case Engelhard’s engineers analyze OEM input rapidly and assemble development samples for OEM review.

The online simulators and tracking of potential customer behavior proves to be win-win for everyone. Customers benefit from an accelerated process of technology evaluation and development; users receive finished components closely matching their specifications. For the company providing the technology online they gain insight into customers’ technology strategies and cost performance trade-offs. The analysis of customer specifications also helps a company identify situations were breakthrough technologies may be needed, thus helping their customers comply with new government and consumer standards.

The most immediate and quantify quantifiable advantage cited by companies using this method is faster development. Online interaction and simulation has allowed companies to iterate more quickly and ship samples in one third the time formerly required for development.