If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” ~As Lewis Carroll

That Cheshire Grin by That Cheshire Grin

Image credit: Foxsword

In order to deliver the right product, we must first determine our business goals. With limited boys, toys, and time (resources), we need to be selective to be successful.  It sounds simple, but you would be surprised how often it is overlooked.

For example, one organization responded when asked, why were they developing a new product with improved features, “we always develop a new product, every two years with 15-25% improvement”.  Never mind that their development cycle has slipped to 4 years and the improvements that they were making were less than 10% in the last two product iterations, in a market whose active sales prices were being readily reduced.  I challenged them to be honest, and clearly define what their motives were.

So upfront, it is important to identify the stakeholders, determine what the goals are of the business, and agree on them.  This clarity is instrumental in determining the right strategy.  The clearer we can be, the more likely we can be successful.  Things we should ask ourselves:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • If we do something to achieve these goals, what are the potential outcomes—good or bad?(will we cannibalize a current product, can we grow market share, if we grow share can we support the growth…)
  • Are there any lessons learned from past efforts?
  • What challenges may we incur?

General agreement amongst stakeholders is imperative.  Often a successful development program is a multifunction effort. Sales, marketing, manufacturing, distributions, field service, and other functions are critical to delivering a successful product.  There have been plenty of great products that have come to market and failed because they lacked a sales and distribution strategy or didn’t identify the customer segment correctly, or the manufacturing cost exceeded the sales price.

Finally, if possible, validate that the potential outcomes are possible and could yield the desired results.  Are the numbers real?  Are they attainable?  Are there other barriers besides the product itself?  These high level goals set the vector for all the subsequent efforts.  If the arrow is shot in the wrong direction, the target will never be hit.   At this point we don’t yet know the road we are going down, but we have identified the high level criteria to help us select it.