Technology Strategy for Product Innovation

05/06/2020 0 By indiafreenotes

Companies realize innovations through a combination of market research, internal idea generation, customer requests and a variety of other factors. They also frequently discover innovative solutions by chance.

Manufacturers typically maintain a balance between market and customer-driven innovation efforts. Market research will identify broad market needs or specific market demand that will drive innovation, and resources will be devoted to support organizational goals for product and technology development. Customers bring specific problems to be solved sometimes without understanding what the problem is or realizing a solution is possible.

Customer requests represent an external force driving innovation. Succeeding in customer-driven product innovation can be made easier if companies follow a set of four best practices centering on clear and open communication between the parties. Following this disciplined process is the second strategy in creating product innovation that delivers results.

  1. Gather all the facts

Creating a solution for a customer challenge begins with a deep understanding of the customer’s needs the real needs, not just the stated needs. Developers should not simply respond to the request. They need to first ask a series of in-depth questions to clarify the context, which may include: Why do you need the requested product or technology? How does it fit into a complete system? What processes affect its performance? What alternatives have worked and/or failed? Gaining comprehensive insight may reveal that a more complete solution exists rather than one that simply fulfills the customer’s initial request.

  1. Get the right parties together and on the same page

Open communication is vital to arriving at the best possible solution for customer-centric development challenges. Often, customers share their initial requests with marketing and sales contacts. It is important for these parties to facilitate collaboration between technical groups on both sides to ensure the proper handoff of information and encourage peer-to-peer communication, which adds richness to the relationship and helps to ensure the most relevant solutions.

Engineers from both organizations need to share detailed application information and explore technical challenges together as early in the design cycle as possible. Bringing people together who speak the same technical language encourages information sharing, brainstorming and efficiency, while enabling the parties to gain as in-depth an understanding of the project as possible.

  1. Stay ahead of the curve

Technology developers have a greater chance of successfully meeting future customer requests when they proactively explore potential market opportunities and applications. As discussed earlier, one way to structure these proactive efforts is to set up a technology development track operating separately from but parallel to product development. Developing solutions for specific problems within emerging technologies in advance of customer demands ensures that developers can properly apply those solutions when needed to meet application requirements. In doing so, developers will be able to respond more quickly and effectively to customer needs.

  1. Prototype early and often

Developing early prototypes even for individual components enables developers to test and refine parts before moving too far down the product development path. Techniques can include virtual prototyping and virtual design analysis. Developers should test concepts and engage in continuous feasibility studies throughout a project to determine the potential for success or failure. Then, as development proceeds, opportunities exist to make adjustments without requiring major overhauls. Such early prototypes are often less expensive than complete systems and can be made more rapidly, decreasing costs and shortening development time.

In collaboration with the customer, it is wise to test those parts that present the highest risk or biggest challenges first. In doing so, companies and their customers are better able to determine if any barriers are insurmountable and would necessitate putting the brakes on a project prior to substantive investments in time, energy or dollars. Even if a project does not meet its initial goals, it can still be considered a success. The collaborative process strengthens customer-developer relationships and gives each party a better idea of the other’s needs and capabilities, which can help facilitate the next project.

Technology Strategy for Product Innovation development framework based on their observations of top-performing businesses.

  1. Define goals and objectives

Developing an innovation and technology strategy begins by setting and clearly articulating innovation goals. Importantly, these must tie into the broader business goals and also translate into specific and concrete objectives, e.g. in terms of expected sales or profits.

  1. Select strategic arenas

Identifying, at a strategic level, the market opportunities to attack and profitably operate in, or the technologies which the business would focus its new product efforts on is central to a new strategy. Cooper and Edgett provide a set of dimensions and questions to help businesses select their areas of strategic thrust (or arenas) that provide new and profitable prospects.

  1. Develop attack and entry strategies

The authors explain that a business may choose to attack its chosen strategic arenas as an industry innovator or a fast follower, a low-cost provider, differentiator or a niche player. These attack strategies guide the policies, activities and the businesses initiatives, and whatever is chosen should align with the business’s unique strengths and the knowledge of industry success drivers.

  1. Resource commitments and deployment decisions

Determining strategic priorities and allocating resources to them is a key part of a technology strategy. This translates as effective portfolio selection and management that ensures projects and other initiatives are aligned with the business objectives and are balanced against one another.

  1. Define a strategic roadmap

A roadmap helps senior management understand and communicate how they intend to achieve their innovation and technology strategy objectives. Using roadmaps, they are able to map out timings of their initiatives, including indications of where technology development or acquisition is necessary, as well as when product platforms would be crucial.