The Concept Lifecycle


The new products process essentially turns an opportunity (the real start) into a profit flow (the real finish). It begins with something that is not a product (the profit). The product comes from a situation and turns into an end.

What we have, then, is an evolving product, or better, an evolving concept that, at the end, may become a product. There are stages, like individual frames in a movie film:

  • Opportunity concept-a company skill or resource, or customer problem.
  • Idea concept-the first appearance of an idea.
  • Stated concept-a home or technology, plus a clear statement of benefit.
  • Tested concept-it has passed an end user concept test; need is confirmed.
  • Full screened concept-it passes the test of fit with company situation.
  • Protocol concepts-a statement (product definition) of the intended market user.
  • Prototype concept-a tentative physical product or system procedure, including features and benefits.
  • Batch concept-first full test of fit with manufacturing; it can be made. Specifications are written, exactly what the product is to be, including features, characteristics, and standards.
  • Process concept-the full manufacturing process is complete.
  • Pilot concept-a supply of the new product, produced in quantity from a pilot production line, enough for field testing with end users.
  • Marketed concept-output of the scale-up process either for a market test or full scale launch.
  • Successful concept (new product)-it meets the goals set for it at the start of the project.

Some firms have as many as three production models or prototypes. So, the idea that a new product suddenly “emerges” from R&D-like a chicken from an egg-is simply incorrect.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

New Product Concept


Webster’s says a concept is an idea or an abstract notion. Businesspeople use the term concept for the product promise, the customer proposition, and the real reason why people should buy. It is a stated relationship between product features (form of technology) and consumer benefits—a claim of proposed satisfactions. This promise is open to four interpretations:

  • The producer’s perception of the features of the new product.
  • The consumer’s perception of the features of the new product.
  • The producer’s estimate of the benefits delivered by that set of features.
  • The consumer’s estimate of the benefits delivered by that set of features.

These are only forecasts, guesses, at this time—not reality, even with a prototype in hand. They rest on expectations.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Product Development Process


The product development process involves analysis of the marketplace, the buyer, the company’s capabilities, and the economic potential of new product ideas. This process may be both expensive and time consuming. To accelerate the process, many companies create multidisciplinary teams so that manufacturing and marketing plans can be developed in tandem while the product is being designed.

  1. Generation and Screening of Ideas: The first step is to come up with ideas that will satisfy unmet needs. A producer may get new product ideas from its own employees or from external consultants, it may simply adapt a competitor’s idea, or it may buy the rights to someone else’s invention. Customers are often the best source of new product ideas.
  2. Business Analysis: A product idea that survives the screening stage is subjected to a business analysis. At this point the question is: Can the company make enough money on the product to justify the investment? To answer this question, companies forecast the probable sales of the product, assuming various pricing strategies. In addition, they estimate the costs associated with various levels of production. Given these projections, the company calculates the potential cash flow and return on investment that will be achieved if the product is introduced.
  3. Prototype Development: The next step is generally to create and test a few samples, or prototypes, of the product, including its packaging. During this stage, the various elements of the marketing mix are put together. In addition, the company evaluates the feasibility of large-scale production and specifies the resources required to bring the product to market.
  4. Product Testing: During the product testing stage, a small group of consumers actually use the product, often in comparison tests with existing products. If the results are good, the next step is test marketing, introducing the product in selected areas of the country and monitoring consumer reactions. Test marketing makes the most sense in cases where the cost of marketing a product far exceeds the cost of developing it.
  5. Commercialization: The final stage of development is commercialization, the large-scale production and distribution of those products that have survived the testing process. This phase requires the coordination of many activities—manufacturing, packaging, distribution, pricing and promotion. A classic mistake is letting marketing get out of phase with production so that the consumer is primed to buy the product before the company can supply it in adequate quantity. A mistake of this sort can be costly, because competitors may be able to jump in quickly. Many companies roll out their new products generally, going from one geographic area to the next. This enables them to spread the costs of launching the product over a longer period and to refine their strategy as the rollout proceeds.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Creative Management of Product Design


An emerging area of importance is product/process design. In increasingly competitive, sophisticated markets, attractively designed products or processes sell well; shoddily designed products are left alone on the shelves. Excellent product design requires high orders of essence creativity (novel ideas), elaborative creativity (contextually relevant elaborations of ideas that are unique because of the kinds of components utilized and the way they are fitted together), and expressive creativity (unique aesthetic features). There can be following basic steps for coming up with successful and creative product design:

a)    The designing unit should have members with diverse expertise so that their brainstorms can result in unique product design concepts that are also practical.

b)   It is imperative that the design unit has an in-depth understanding of the client and the market, the technologies needed or involved, and the nature of the problem and the constraints that need to be kept in mind.

c)    The design unit must take the trouble to observe people in real-life situations to identify their needs, difficulties, likes, dislikes, etc. Creative design needs creative observation, that is observation that is not only accurate but also multi-angled so as to yield interesting design possibilities. Innovation begins with eyes. The design unit needs to create a ‘bug-list,’ that is, a list of the problems that presently bug the likely users of the future products.

d)   The design unit needs to visualize a new product concepts and the customers who could be captivated by them. This can involve building several physical models and prototypes, simulations on the computer, and creation of videos that portray high the new product may be used by people well before it comes into existence.

e)    The design unit needs to evaluate and refine the prototypes/models through several quick iterations, each one involving changes and improvements. Inputs should be secured not only from members of the design unit, but also from experts, the client, and the potential consumers. Exceptional design seldom come right the first time around. Serially generated improvements based on the reactions and suggestions of the product’s stakeholders can quickly get the design unit to an exceptional design.

f)     Effective implementation that leads to the commercial use of the product. This is often a long and tedious process that creative teams frequently neglect. But the planning of milestones, cost cutting and cost control efforts, packaging and so forth are indispensable if a product design is to taste commercial success.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Life-Cycle Management


All projects have a natural life cycle from birth to death and that changes inherent in the life cycle cause shifting interfaces and broad changes over time which dramatically increase the need for the project management approach. This life-cycle property is also shared by product sales and systems development.

 The product sales life-cycle is probably the best known. Between the point of introduction and the final removal from the market (replacement by another product is more complicated) there are roughly four phases:

a)    Introduction

b)   Growth

c)    Maturity

d)   Decline

 Actually, a product must go through research and development stages before it is introduced on the market. If we add these phases to the product  we would have a larger cycle similar for products/projects/processes.

 Full Products/Projects/Processs Life Cycle:

  1. Pre-design phase—The product/project idea is born and given early evaluation. Early forecasts of performance, cost, and time aspects are made, as well as of organization and resource requirements. There is a high mortality rate in this phase.
  2. Design phase—A much more detailed design of the project/product is developed and its feasibility and desirability are determined.
  3. Pilot testing phase—An actual prototype of the product, system, or difficult prices of the project are made, tested, and redesigned as necessary.
  4. Startup/Introduction phase—The product is introduced or the main project is started up.
  5. Rampup/Growth phase—Product sales grow, and the product is expanded to its full volume.
  6. Mature phase—Sales are full, as is the project effort size.
  7. Rampdown/decline phase—Sales decline, phasing the project out.
  8. Termination/divestment—The product is removed, the project is stopped, and the system is sold.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Knowledge Engineering


In the traditional approach to systems design, a system analyst, together with the ultimate end-users, or clients, for the project, will complete a functional specification of the system. At that point, the project is essentially in the hands of professional project management and programming staff, because that group possesses the knowledge and skill required to deliver the agreed upon features and functions. In the development of knowledge systems, this is simply not the case. Following the specification of function, a new problem arises. This is because it is not an algorithm that is being developed but knowledge that is being encoded for machine use.

 

The immediate problem is that traditional applications developers do not have sufficient knowledge of the applications area to complete the project from the starting point of a functional specification. This information generally exists in a variety of forms, depending on the application area. In some cases an individual or group of individuals may uniquely possess the relevant knowledge. In other cases, the knowledge may exist in the form of published materials like manuals or textbooks. In still other cases, the knowledge does not presently exist at all, and must be created and developed along with the system itself. This is an extremely difficult circumstance. Further compounding this problem is a critical factor: Regardless of the form in which the knowledge currently exists, it is not in a form that is ready for use by a knowledge system. Someone must decide what knowledge is relevant and desirable for inclusion, acquire the knowledge, and represent it in a form suitable for a knowledge system to apply. In all but trivial applications the task of representing the knowledge requires not only coding individual “chunks” of knowledge, but also organizing and structuring these individual components.

 

Historically, owing to the remoteness and enigmatic quality of artificial intelligence technologies, the person doing the actual systems development and the “expert,” or source of knowledge, were not the same. The availability of tools, in place of enigmatic technologies, has had an impact on reducing this problem. Even if one can imagine the case in which the “expert” whose knowledge is to be modeled is also an “expert” with the use of artificial intelligence development tools, there still remains a sizable problem.

 

In case where knowledge resides with some practitioner or expert, it does not exist explicitly as a series of IF …THEN rules, ready to be encoded. Most practitioners and experts find it difficult to explain explicitly what they are doing while solving problems. They are not cognizant of the underlying rules they are applying. Their expertise has been developed from numerous experiences and involves highly developed pattern recognition skills and heuristics.

 

In the case where the knowledge to be included is contained in text material like manuals, regulations, procedures, and the like, the information is still not in a form ready for inclusion in an expert system. It must be remembered that one of the most often cited advantages of expert systems is that they make explicit the knowledge that is most often implicit and unavailable for review, evaluation, dissemination, and modification. The task of making knowledge both explicit and available for systems application is that of knowledge engineering. Most literature on the development and application of knowledge systems has identified the need for individuals skilled in knowledge engineering as a critical factor to widespread use of technology.

 

Knowledge engineering involves acquiring, representing, and coding knowledge. The representation and coding aspects of systems development have been greatly impacted by these newly available tools. The speed with which prototyping can be accomplished has also helped reduce some of the difficulty in acquiring or refining knowledge. The knowledge engineer now finds it much less costly in time and effort to represent, code, and test early approaches to systems development, providing a more efficient feedback loop. This feedback loop is critical in the development of knowledge systems. The end-user/client for the project is, by nature, going to be much more involved in the systems design process. The “programmer” often is incapable of deciding if the system is behaving properly, owing to a lack of fundamental knowledge about the application area. This is simply not as strong a factor, where the programmer is capable of evaluating the accuracy and efficiency of algorithms. When the product is actionable knowledge rather than algorithms, the ability to evaluate project progress shifts to the end-user/client. This creates the increased emphasis on the feedback loop.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Innovation Defined


Innovation is the use of new knowledge to offer a new product or service that customers want. It is invention together with commercialization. It is a new way of doing things (termed invention by some) that is commercialized. The process of innovation cannot be separated from a firm’s strategic and competitive context. The new knowledge can be technological or market related. Technological knowledge is knowledge of components, linkages between components, methods, processes, and techniques that go into a product or service. Market knowledge is knowledge of distribution channels, product applications, and customer expectations, preferences, needs, and wants. The product or service is new in that its cost is lower, its attributes are improved, it now has new attributes, it never had before, or it never existed in that market before. Often the new product or service itself is called an innovation, reflecting the fact that it is the creation of new technological or market knowledge.

Innovation has also been defined as the adoption of ideas that are new to the organization. Generating good ideas or adopting a new one, in and of itself, is only a start. To be an innovation, an idea must be converted into a product or service that customers want. Coming up with the idea or prototype—invention—is one thing. Championing it, shepherding it, and nurturing it into a product or service that customers want is another. Innovation entails both invention and commercialization.

A distinction has also been made between technical and administrative innovation. Technical innovation is about improved products, services, or processes or completely new ones. This contrasts with administrative innovation, which pertains to organizational structure and administrative processes and may or may not affect technical innovation. Technical innovation may or may not require administrative innovation. A technical innovation can be a product or a process.

Product innovations are new products or services introduced to meet an external and market need whereas process innovations are new elements introduced into an organization’s production or service operations—input materials, task specifications, work and information flow mechanisms, and equipment used to produce a product or render a service.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight