NPD Tales

Ideas Thoughts and Comments on Product Development

Collaborative Tools – Customer Involvement

Collaborative tools such as enterprise wikis or more proprietary solutions like MS SharePoint and SamePage have generally focussed on improving internal communication.  In the field of new product development poor communication is a major barrier to effective performance and great benefit can be gained by intelligently deploying such tools.

There is an increasing emphasis from the vendors of these solutions to extend the scope of the tools to include communication with customers.  In the context of flexible product development or Lean Product Development the advantages of gaining continuous rapid feedback are of genuine benefit.

Of course the more customer facing parts of an organisation might (quite rightly) express concern at such close communication with the internal workings of the product development process (and in particular the individuals involved).  Coupled with that, there is the risk that the product development path may become too flexible and result in an unacceptable increase in time to market.

However with careful management the use of collaborative tools to increase customer involvement and feedback can only bring an improvement to the success of new products…

Researching the Market – Fear of Exposure

My work finds me currently meeting an increasing number of lone inventors.  Whilst most of their needs are very different from established companies with a product development function there are issues that they have in common.

I am frequently presented with a product idea that the inventor is convinced will be successful.  Often they have launched into securing costly patent protection but have no data to back up their projections for the value of their product or idea.  Invariably they will tell me that it is too risky to research the market because it will expose their idea and risk it being copied – this situation is also not uncommon amongst SMEs.

It is important to cultivate relationships with people who can provide you with valuable feedback who you either trust or are not likely to be interested in developing products (preferably both).  Sometimes it’s easier to hide behind the fear of exposure than to put the effort into finding and working with such people.

New-Featuritis (’I think I’ll keep the beard’)

I can’t recommend Tom Fishburne enough.

Crossing the Chasm Revisited

My earlier post on Energy Monitors reminded me of Geoffrey Moore’s seminal book ‘Crossing the Chasm’.

For those who haven’t read it (and I’d advise you to do so) the book tackles the problem of marketing technology products to mainstream customers.  Firstly by splitting the market into innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards, then identifying the ‘chasm’ that exists between the early adopters and the early majority Moore continues and presents strategies for crossing that chasm.

Although it was revised in 1998 the original was written 20 years ago.  Despite that it is still hugely relevant today – and contains invaluable information about new product development alongside product marketing.  All that has changed is the number of opportunities for developing new technology products for the mainstream market and the speed of the technology adoption lifecycle.