Bringing the perfect product to market in a timely fashion isn’t easy: Gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all, methodical approach. Today, companies want product development that’s fast, flexible and predictable — and ever-growing numbers of competitors around the world are ready to snap up any customers who aren’t completely satisfied.
Businesses can’t afford to waste time or resources on unprofitable ideas, and must eliminate barriers that lead to unpredictable results. A flexible yet consistent process to develop new products can help. Ask yourself: Are you building what the market wants and will buy? Does your team have too much or too little creative flexibility? Are you able to measure your organization’s performance?
To deliver a product that consumers want, you must set achievable success criteria and work to meet that goal. Developing a product that consumers may want but will not purchase does not lead to success any more than a product which consumers do not want. Companies must consider the features possible given the technology available, competitors’ market positions and offerings, and the price point customers might be willing to pay.
Technological limitations include both product features and ability to manufacture at scale. Boundaries need to be put in place even for innovation to occur. The goal is to sell a product, not just to create a work of art.
Functional silos often foster dysfunction between internal groups working together. Executives must be active in preventing and breaking down any barriers.
Successfully bringing a new product to market requires active participation from engineering, procurement, manufacturing, sales and marketing and other supply-chain stakeholders. Lack of collaboration often inhibits innovation and performance.
Companies must set clear targets for the product development process, but how do you determine what metrics are important? First, compare your results against competitors to see where you are leading or falling behind. Each industry will have its own standards for quality product launches.
Second, look at your own history for success stories, and don’t forget to analyze qualitative feedback from both internal and external sources.
The ability to release products on time and on budget is critical, but 45% of launches are delayed by at least one month, according to a survey by Gartner Inc. Delays often occur from bugs, errors or issues with quality or supply. Knowing where your company sees most of its delays is important in correcting the process for future launches.
An organization that understands weaknesses in its commercialization process has a better chance of bringing profitable products to market. Customer needs must be the focus of any product design — and business teams must align in the same direction to achieve a successful launch.
Scott McPhaden is managing consultant, and Drew Andrews is consultant, of operations and improvement at PA Consulting.
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