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Soldier “Touchpoints”

Bottom Line Up Front: Soldier feedback will guide and inform product development in the new world. These testing events are called “Soldier Touchpoints.”

Always Ask The Consumer What They Want

In the commercial world, developing and refining products with potential consumers is an absolute must. You will never find something in store shelves that hasn’t gone through a million customer focus groups, tons of market research, and countless hours of user interviews. No commercial company would dream of shipping a product that hasn’t been extensively tested with potential shoppers and customers. Failing to do so is a surefire way to drive your company into bankruptcy.

Not so in the military. The only thing contractors have to fulfill are the reams of requirements written by panels of Subject Matter Experts. Soldiers are seldom, if ever consulted.

Until now.

Soldier Touchpoints

As you can see in today’s article, the Army is evaluating new guns, and they are involving soldiers —the actual users who will carry and use the weapons themselves— to get their guidance, feedback, and direction. This is the Army’s version of a consumer focus group. And the product is refined based on customer feedback, just like in commercial industry.

These events where soldiers try products are called “soldier touchpoints.” And they will be ubiquitous in the new contracting world.

What Does Leadership Think?

Lt. Col. Jason Bohanon explains why touchpoints are useful:

“At the end of the day, they’re really determining or giving feedback on if they believe the weapon system is operationally effective or not,” he said. “Will it increase or decrease their performance?”

Textron, one of the competitors, sees that the final judge of their work will be the guys with the boots on the ground. They recognize they must please them and take their feedback as product development guidance.

“Soldier touchpoints have been very valuable especially in the area of ergonomics, hand placement, [and] trigger pull,” Prender told reporters during a virtual Association of the United States Army media roundtable in October. “What they say, what they don’t say, what we observe, are all elements that are then rolled into our weapon system.”

Notable in this new world is who isn’t involved in the evaluation:

“We still conduct soldier touchpoints, we still have separate technical testing, and all that information goes to a selection team.” 

That team will include an operational general officer, rather than an acquisition officer, he noted. 

“It’s somebody who’s got loads of operational experience,” he said.

The New World of User-Centered Design

Is actually the decades-old practice from commercial industry. But it is being brought into the world of defense contracting. And products from now on will be guided by what the boots on the ground say.

Don’t have any User Experience people in your company? Time to hire a few.

Are you a User Experience professional? There is a whole new industry that’s about to need you!