User research in product development in business to business software as a service

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Information and Service Management (ISM)
Customers are more empowered to make purchasing decisions than ever before, and customer experience has become a critical decision factor. Business to business (B2B) software as a service (SaaS) companies are changing their strategies and ways of working to become more customer-centric and stay competitive. To understand users, their needs, motivations and the problems that they are facing, companies do user research and involve users in product development. This thesis explores how B2B SaaS organizations utilize user research when developing products. It aims to answer some of the most fundamental questions: which user research methods companies use, how they involve internal stakeholders in user research and how they select the users and motivate them to take part in product development. A qualitative multiple case study approach was used in this thesis to answer the research questions. The literature review aims to provide a broad overview of the topic. Six B2B SaaS companies and two service design companies were interviewed to learn about user research in B2B SaaS field. The results of the thesis show that less customer-centric organizations do ad-hoc user research. More customer-centric companies incorporate user research into the development process. Both approaches are valuable for developing a product that fits customer needs but incorporated user involvement is necessary for achieving a better outcome. Customer-centric organizations include various stakeholders in user research to increase the transparency of findings and create empathy towards users. Furthermore, qualitative user research is essential for customer-centric product development. Regarding the users, while they are motivated to take part in product development, it was discovered that in the B2B field the process of approaching users can be challenging. This thesis compares how different B2B SaaS companies do user research. It reveals the best practices, challenges and opportunities of user involvement. This information can be useful for organizations that aim to become customer-centric. The findings contribute to the literature by providing insights into successful examples and the challenges of user involvement in product development in B2B SaaS organizations.
Thesis advisor
Penttinen, Esko
Tukiainen, Ville
user research, user involvement, user experience, customer experience, customer feedback, service design, design thinking, customer-centric product development
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