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The development of a new product or service is exciting. The academic and theoretical analyses of technologies, supply chain efficiencies, distribution strategies, and the myriad of other disciplines and topics is both enlightening and fun.

However, energy may be expended in futility if the blueprint of your product is not complete and based on true market needs.

The two components to this blueprinting process that I find most important are gathering the correct data and then synthesizing it into a useful form that can be acted upon.

Gathering data

There are many types of information that are important to the success of a product. Some are very obvious and others less so, yet equally important. This list contains the minimum topics to investigate during any data gathering exercise. In no particular order, they are:

  • Applications & use cases
  • Target markets
  • Performance level needed
  • Average selling price and the price range
  • Competitor data
  • Customer requirements
  • Service level(s)
  • Problems customers are currently facing:
  • What are they currently doing to address it?
  • Why do they want a better solution?
  • What would they like improved?

Notice that these data points are not just focused on price, features, or any other single topic. The information gathered must provide a complete view of the product as it functions in the customers’ environments for it to be a  commercial success. A common trap is focusing too much on technical aspects and too little on the commercial aspects. Some examples of important commercial issues are:

  • Delivery lead-time
  • Shipping and delivery charges
  • Ease of order and reorder
  • Ease and cost of installation
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Return, warranty, and repair policies

The data must provide a complete picture of the product and commercial performance. Success in both is needed for your product to gain market share.

Synthesis

Synthesis is defined as combining a number of datapoints, technical and commercial, into a coherent whole. This stage is about combining all of the applicable raw data into a product specification or blueprint that will be greater than the sum of its data points.

Two items to consider during this phase are:

  1. What are the goals of the product?
  2. How does this product fit into the strategies of other products in your company’s offering?

Goals

There can be many reasons for developing a new product and each of the reasons should be based on the ultimate goals of both your product line and of your company. Common reasons are: 1) margin improvement, 2) adding customer benefits , 3) create new, innovative products that will keep you, or move you, ahead of the competition, and 4) broadening your product offering to better address smaller or niche markets.

It is also important to ensure that your product is a viable standalone solution for your market. This gives your product the best chance of success:

  1. Pull-through sales: As your company sells other products and systems, your products will be “pulled along” with them as a part of the whole.
  2. Add-on sales: If your products can be used with other systems, then your products could be added to other systems during an expansion project.
    • This is a great reason to design your product to have compatibility with many of your industry’s standards.
  3. Competitors’ system sale: If your product is clearly superior in the market but your company did not win the larger system sale, you could still get the business for you product line.

Compatibility with Company Strategy

It is important that the product you develop fits within the overarching market strategy of your firm. This concept is easy to overlook for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons I’ve witnessed are:

  1. there is no company strategy in which to fit
  2. the product lines are too loosely connected both technically and managerially - the product lines are in silos
  3. the company as a whole is failing to adjust to changes in the industry or in a particular product category

Conclusion

The proper gathering and synthesizing of data will provide a solid platform for launching a successful product or service. Projects and products defined and designed based on weak data typically cannot stand-up to market scrutiny.

These are the products that haunt the product development team and the product manager for years as they scramble to modify and redesign it to meet the ever-increasing requirements of their market

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