Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Launch Your New Products/services Better, Faster: Eight Factors Are Critical in Separating Winners from Losers. How Do Your Teams Rate? (Managers at Work)

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Launch Your New Products/services Better, Faster: Eight Factors Are Critical in Separating Winners from Losers. How Do Your Teams Rate? (Managers at Work)

Article excerpt

For companies operating in technology-intensive industries, Tom Peters' adage "Innovate or die" could be more accurately re-written today as "Innovate quickly or die" (1). However, the critical practices for fast and successful product development in high-tech firms are still being explored and cry out for more empirical research. In this study, we attempted to shed light on the critical factors for better and faster innovation by studying 117 new product development projects in high-tech industries and interviewing 162 project managers and core team members in these projects to find out what works and what does not. (See "How the Study Was Conducted," next page)

Critical Practices for New Product Success

We identified four critical positive factors that were significantly associated with the outcome of a new product development project: teamwork, market niche assessment, cross-team communication, and vision clarity (see "Critical Factors for Speed and Success," p. 23 for definition of the critical factors). We also found that one additional factor--within-team formal communication--had a significantly negative influence on new product success (6) (see Figure 1).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

We then divided our sample into successful and unsuccessful projects and performed a statistical t-test of the differences. The results of both analyses (Figure 2) were similar with respect to the critical positive practices of teamwork, market niche assessment, cross-team communication, and vision clarity. However, we did not find a significant difference between successful and unsuccessful projects regarding within-team formal communication--implying that this relationship is not very strong and caution should be exercised when interpreting the negative impact of within-team formal communication on new product success. These findings demonstrate that successful project teams have a clear project vision, communicate with other teams in the company or industry, perform market niche assessments to determine the potential customer wants and needs, identify target markets, and work well together.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Implications for New Product Success

There are several implications of our findings for companies wishing to have more successful new product teams:

1. High-tech new product development is a team sport. Teamwork is probably more critical for high-tech products than for low-tech ones because no one individual will likely have all the needed experience and knowledge to successfully develop and commercialize a highly complex product or technology. In these circumstances, the team is only as strong as its weakest link. Unless team members are willing to pitch in, help one another, and work together, the team will likely fail. As one of the software managers we interviewed put it:

You have a team consisting or a project manager, several software developers and a tester. If the tester makes no effort to understand both the functional requirements and design, the developers will take his bug reports less seriously, therefore possibly impacting schedule and quality. On the other hand, on a well-oiled team, one where the team members work well together, the tester would be more familiar with the design, so s/he could not only test the software better, but also assist in causality

2. Teams need a clear vision and direction--one that is supported by all team members. Clarity of project vision is especially critical in high-tech industries where the twists and turns can de-rail a team. Additionally, a clear vision aids in signaling to the team its roles and duties. To use an old adage, "If you don't know where you are going, then any road will do." Teams without a clear focus tend to disagree about what is important and when it is needed, leading to unproductive arguments and, ultimately, disintegration. One manager we interviewed observed that:

Vision is very important. …

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