Like humans need oxygen to breathe, organizations need to sell new products to maximize their potential for future growth and long-term success. However, data suggests that over 80% of new products fail. Innovative firms are defying this statistic by generating up to one third of their revenue from products that did not exist three years prior. Consumer demands for mass customization and instant availability are resulting in shorter product life cycles, requiring manufacturers to implement faster, more flexible product development processes.
How then do companies accelerate the design, development, and launch of complex hardware and integrated software products to fulfill consumer needs? Our experience revealed six actions you can use in your product development processes to maximize efficiency and expedite timelines.
6 Actions to Accelerate Product Development
1. Leverage a Product Development System
Leading companies invest heavily in product development systems like Stage Gate, Lean, Design for Six Sigma, and Agile. These systems are most effective when part of a larger platform used to take a product from idea to launch. In our experience, many new product launch frameworks focus solely on next generation products, falling short early on in the product ideation stage or later during product launch; they tend to lack details for customer research to define product characteristics, identifying new suppliers and new materials, and mapping alternative distribution models. The Technology Commercialization Framework (TCF), however, is one such platform flexible enough to support the use of a wide range of product development methods while streamlining program management processes, and without leaving behind critical commercial data.
2. Align Program Management Processes
Program management processes and individual leadership styles can vary widely, but it is important for managers to choose a process – Waterfall, Critical Path, Agile, etc. – and stick with it. A common misconception is that any product development system and program management process can be paired if the two are considered to be related. Although both are effective management tools, it is crucial to select the best system and process that coincide with your organization’s strategy and culture, and with your new product.
The product development system and program management process selected should also support live collaboration and communication, as this is now the industry expectation, not the exception. Implementing a cloud software application would complement this type of teamwork while also providing project members with early, real-time product analytics on elements like weight, cost, timing, and risk, and will empower them to make faster, better decisions throughout the process, compressing the product development timeline.
3. Create a Cross-Functional Product Team
Leading companies are no longer taking the approach that the engineering department conceives products and the supply chain department delivers them. In fact, supply chain leaders have the abilities to positively impact the product development process by providing the upfront directional costs, investment costs, and lead times to develop new products, a practice that recently shifted from being a “nice-to-have” to a requirement.
A product’s entire end-to-end value stream should be deeply thought through during its product development phase, as an ill-conceived production supply chain may deteriorate a product’s profitability. To progress quickly and guarantee all critical customer internal inputs are considered early in the product ideation stage, assign a team lead from each function for a given program on day one.
4. Partner with a Specialist
Most companies launch new technologies periodically, while for others it’s their specialty. This focused core competency creates a massive advantage through economies of scale due to the volume of commercialization problems these companies encounter and solve with regularity. The technical and commercial scope intricacies of today’s complex integrated products and progressively shorter life cycles require organizations to partner with such a specialized firm to speed up innovation.
Product development, engineering, technology, and supply chain as a service firms make great additions to in-house teams by reducing development and launch risk. Partnering with a firm that provides support from idea to launch is invaluable, as it’s time consuming and expensive to vertically integrate the array of skill sets required to swiftly innovate while remaining flexible.
5. Add Fresh Perspectives
The adage, “same people + same process + same thinking = same results” still holds true in the development of new products. Even if your organization’s internal team, processes, and mindset are perfect, new products require new thinking. Inserting fresh perspectives into your processes via product development partners could bring about the change needed to accelerate development.
All profitable companies have distinct core competencies – i.e. engineering, manufacturing, and sales – so it’s necessary for a business to identify these and then outsource the remaining product development needs to accelerate innovation. Internal politics, approvals, and funding lengthen timelines, so placing specific initiatives with a smaller, nimbler partner will reduce this red tape.
6. Considerations Before & After Launch
To compress the product development process, firms often design a prototype without considering production volumes, only to later experience launch delays needed to “productionize” the product. Supply chains need to be tailored to support new products, not just fit existing ones, otherwise maximum efficiency won’t be reached, nor will performance targets.
Scaling up production requires the consideration of many interconnected data points throughout a product’s life cycle. Preeminent companies prepare themselves for multiple pre- and post-launch scenarios to facilitate continuous on-time supply. The complete production launch strategy, processes, and metrics should be taken into account during product development to ensure a smooth transition, from idea to prototype, and through production.
Organizations experience success or defeat based on the speed at which they deliver new products. Crystallizing product development frameworks and the supporting program management processes are critical steps along the journey to faster new product development processes. Further, creating a cross-functional product team and aligning with a specialized partner will establish the appropriate personnel bandwidth and fresh perspectives needed to accelerate commercializing new products.
Thorough upfront planning is required for breakthrough products, so product development teams must be aware of pre- and post-launch plans early on to aid new product progress from idea to launch. Success goes to those who act, so implement these six actions to advance your pace of product development and out-innovate the competition.