A medium-sized technology company with a strong reputation for specialist products combining bespoke hardware and software, was suffering from several years of under-investment; resulting in products that were no longer at the cutting edge of the industry. Barriers to entry for new competitors had protected the business from complete failure, but their generally loyal major clients were becoming dissatisfied and starting to look at other potential suppliers. But the ability to develop new products was constrained by the lack of hardware design experience, which had not been maintained during the lean years.
In order to secure market share there was an urgent need to bring a new product to market, exploiting the latest technology available to leapfrog competitors and regain a market-leading position.
The limited time (and funds) available for R&D and the lack of an in-house hardware design capability meant some hard decisions were needed on how to develop a complete product offering. Working with the leadership team, the design team and the sales team together, we identified the core capabilities of the business that added value and differentiation and those that could be outsourced. The “make or buy” decision was taken to source the hardware element of the product from an external supplier. This meant the business would have access to up to date hardware that was already accredited and being produced at a volume to keep costs to a minimum and could focus internal effort on the software development side where they had a specialist capability not matched by competitors.
With a hard target to meet in getting the product to market it was essential to deliver the development project at pace, without any time or cost overruns or quality failures. The company did not have a good track record of project management and there was a cultural resistance to the imposition of new processes. In addition, there was now the added dimension of managing external (international) suppliers where previous practice had been for all capabilities to be found in house. We worked with the development team to introduce an appropriate level of project management under the guise of better engineering process, breaking the project down into defined work packages with strict delivery targets to maintain momentum. We also brought the external suppliers and scrutineers into the project as an inherent part of the development team to drive joint ownership and buy-in.
It was important that the new product was not only a market-leading offering when it came to market, but also had an identified path for upgrades throughout its life. The list of potential features was long, but not all would be possible to incorporate if the target for bringing the product to market was going to be met. We formed a combined judgement panel of the sales team, development team and suppliers to bring together a view of which features the market most wanted with the art of the possible in terms of how quickly they could be delivered. This produced a prioritised list of features so we could hit the sweet spot of maximising the capability at product launch without introducing risk and delay, together with a roadmap for future upgrades during the product’s lifetime.
As a result, the company delivered the first new product to market for over 8 years (with a morale boost to match) with a set of features that put them back in front of the competition and a near seamless process for replacing its predecessor. Existing customers were quick to take up the offering and the sales team were able to take something truly impressive and exciting out to the target market and win new business.
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