The Kano model and its usage in Business Analysis
Which requirements must be implemented? What will differentiate our product from other similar products available on the market and generate the delight factor in potential clients? What are the best techniques to elicit particular groups of requirements? A model formulated by professor Noriaki Kano may come handy when addressing these questions.
What is the Kano Model?
The Kano model is a theoretical way of dividing the requirements into groups following the satisfaction criterion. In other words, the groups are established based on how fulfillment of a given requirement impacts the level of satisfaction among the product users. According to the model, the requirements may be grouped in the following three types:
Basic factors (triggering dissatisfaction, Threshold Characteristics)
This group contains requirements which are absolutely essential to be fulfilled. They are treated as necessary and inherent by users of the solution or particular product. These requirements are so apparent, that the stakeholders often won’t even mention them when asked about the expected features or functionalities of the product. This is because the stakeholders perceive them as commonly demanded, widely known and unquestionable. Skipping even a single requirement which falls into this group cuts down the customer satisfaction level drastically. This means that all of them must be implemented.
Buying a car may be a good example. The importance of such features like functional breaks, windshield, windshield wiper or safety belts seems to go without saying. Does any of the car buyers articulate these features directly? Obviously not. They are treated as indispensable and present in any car. Will lack of any of these elements drastically impact the satisfaction of the future user? Yes, to that extend that even if the car in question has other great features, the failure in meeting these basic requirements will diminish the attractiveness of the offer or will result in rejecting it by the potential buyers.
Performance factors (triggering satisfaction, Performance Characteristics)
This group consist of factors which increase users’ satisfaction, however, even without fulfilling these requirements, a given solution continues to deliver value and is acceptable. The stakeholders are aware that these requirements may be fulfilled or not. This awareness makes them articulate these type of requirements. Fulfilling each of these requirements increases the satisfaction level linearly.
Coming back to the car buying example, this group of requirements would include such accessories or equipment like an air conditioning, electric mirror adjustment or navigation. Clients are aware that these features may be present or not and therefore they articulate their expectations directly. The higher the level of fulfillment of requirements in this group, the higher the customer satisfaction. If, however, the requirements are not fulfilled, the solution is still acceptable, albeit without the satisfaction factor.
Enthusiasm factors (triggering delight, Excitement Characteristics)
The enthusiasm factors are a group of requirements which presence creates excitement among potential clients. Without any doubt, they trigger interest, draw attention and allow the product to be successfully differentiated from what the competition offers. These factors are very useful in any marketing campaigns. They play particularly important role in the products which fall under the ‘premium’ category. These products not only stress the importance of quality and optimization of the cost to value factor, but also are designed to drive the desire and increase the excitement of the clients. An important characteristic of these factors is that the clients are not aware of them until someone actually introduces them. In other words, they do not know they want something until they see a particular feature or functionality.
Once again, I will use the car buying ex ample. This group of factors would include the automated parking system (especially controlled from outside of the car), web browser or massage seats.
How to elicit requirements in each of the three groups?
Due to the specific characteristics of requirements in each group, the elicitation seems to be most effective when using certain techniques.
The basic factors are perceived as obvious. These are the so called ‘subconscious requirements’, which are not mentioned directly as we think they are evident. For this reason, asking the stakeholders about them seems to be pointless. Better option is observation or analysis of other (competing) products. Lack of basic factors is also quite easily noticed, therefore their fulfillment may be validated using prototypes.
As mentioned before, the performance factors are requirements that are directly expressed by the stakeholders who are aware of their existence and that they are possible to be fulfilled. These are the so called ‘conscious requirements’ and can be elicited using such techniques like interviews, surveys or focus groups.
It gets complicated, however, when we get to the enthusiasm factors. As previously mentioned, the stakeholders are not aware of the existence of these requirements until someone offers them. These are ‘unconscious requirements’. They cannot be elicited by simply asking potential buyers. Only after they were defined can they be presented and offered to the potential clients. Gathering the enthusiasm factor requirements demands high level of creativity, hence techniques like, for example brain storming may be involved.
The Kano model considers ‘inflation’
The Kano model indicates another important rule: with time, the requirements move across groups. Enthusiasm factors become performance factors and the performance factors eventually end up as basic factors. The ‘downward migration’ takes place. The pace of these changes depends on the pace with which innovations are introduced in given industry and the lifecycle of products. Factors which once generated delight and were an example of latest innovation (e.g. car seat belts) became something obvious today, so much so it is hard to imagine these products without them. This translates into a simple law: if you want to generate delight or even high level of satisfaction in your clients, you have to innovate on a continuous basis.
- Try to elicit and fulfill all requirements stemming from basic factors; without them your product becomes unacceptable
- When aiming at differentiating your product and positioning it properly on the market, try to identify and fulfill at least several requirements which stem from the enthusiasm factors
- Use appropriate techniques when eliciting requirements which can be allocated to the three groups mentioned in this post
- Keep the ‘inflation’ and continuous innovation in mind