There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a struggling new product program suck resources away from healthy projects as it circles the drain before being shut down. Maybe you’ve seen it all before – the fire drills, the indecision, and then the reality.
Some of that is just the territory we are in with innovation. When you explore new space you will occasionally run into surprises.
But what can you do to minimize those unwanted surprises? And how do you do that without being so careful that you miss out on great new opportunities?
#1 Ask the Right Questions Before You Begin
Every new product innovation beyond a simple line extension has some element of risk. And while you need to become comfortable taking risks, it never makes sense to take risks where you aren’t likely to win. Those are just risks that are not worth taking.
While it’s impossible to predict every challenge or obstacle that you might run into, here are five feasibility questions that will help you identify potential fatal flaws.
- Commercial: Is there a clear commercial benefit so that customers willingly pay more than it costs you to produce?
- Technical: Do you have a clear and proven technical path to a solution?
- Manufacturing: Is it something you can produce efficiently and reliably?
- Intellectual Property: Are there patents preventing you from practicing?
- Regulatory: Are you capable of navigating any regulations (FDA, EPA, FAA, FTC, etc.) within the timeframe required?
If you answered “Yes” to all of these, then the risk is likely worth taking.
If you answered “No,” you’ve either identified a fatal flaw or need to do more concept work.
If you aren’t sure about any of these, then consider the next step.
#2 Structure Development to Answer the Critical Questions First
If you can’t answer some of the previous questions, it’s time to restructure your development work. The most effective programs start with a business case based on clear unmet needs that customers are willing to pay to solve. Following that is the concept and technical feasibility phase where you decide on the key technology path and product requirements. That way you can proceed to design with all of the key risks already retired.
Going into the concept phase you need to be clear on:
- The key technical and commercial questions that have not yet been answered.
- The information they already have
- The information they still need
- The steps they will take to get the required information
#3 Don’t Be Afraid to Act
Inertia is a powerful thing and ends up carrying many failed projects well past their expiration date. So remember that the key point in identifying potential fatal flaws is to enable you to act early. Before wasting resources on a program that has no chance of success.
It might feel a bit harsh pulling the plug early. But your team will thank you when they find themselves working on programs with a much higher hit rate!
Free Resources to Help You
If this is an area where you could use some help, our complimentary Obstacle Crusher Planner is available for free and comes with easy instructions on how to take your team through the process. To get it, simply hit the blue button below.
And if you are curious about how better pipeline visibility can help you manage your risks and reap more rewards, you might want to learn how our AcceleTrak software can help with that.