If you are an executive or middle-manager, responsible for R&D or product development, chances are you have been fighting with budget and personnel cuts, low demand for your products, low morale and an uncertain future. OK, we are all on the same boat and we all share the pain during these difficult times. So, how are you spending your time and energy during this time? If, like many, you are focused on saving the day, getting by with what you’ve got, then, you are losing valuable opportunity to position your team and company for the better days to come.
Let me tell you my story: I am responsible for New Product Development (NPD) at a company, which is significantly battered by the economic downturn. In response, I led my team to develop a NPD plan for 2009, which focused on three main strategic areas:
1) Consolidate and simplify product offerings. Enrich quality and features without increasing cost.
2) Increase the value for the customers. Offer relevant products within a portfolio. Develop complementary products that can be “bundled” as a full solution.
3) Identify the “next big thing” and start working on it.
The goal of the first two areas is to increase income in the short term while establishing a solid product foundation. Dedicating a group of R&D resources into these two areas enabled the company to deliver “more” to its customers. Product improvements and consolidations typically do not require the resources that would be necessary for “green field” development projects.
The third area is forward-looking. This activity determines our next steps and our next investments.
This type of activities are mostly postponed in tough economic conditions due to many legitimate reasons. Some of the reasons are staff shortage, inability to make investments, too many immediate issues, so on so forth. In reality, forward-looking activities do not need to take much resources. In addition, they have a positive impact on the overall morale of staff, even if they are not directly involved in them.
I hope you find this posting helpful. I am always curious to hear your comments and feedback on my posting. You may reach me by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.