Many companies are now faced with the same challenge: when developing new products, they venture away from their core areas of expertise and find themselves in unfamiliar technological territory, such as software development. Using a fictional example, we show how such a transition can be successful despite the risks.
The traditional shoe manufacturer Shoester AG specialises in high-quality work shoes. It has been approached by B2B customers to develop an electrically heated safety shoe that can be operated conveniently using a mobile app.
How can a company that specialises in conventional shoes and leather products develop, launch, and maintain a successful product so far removed from its core area of expertise?
Unfamiliar technological territory
The heated safety shoe will be worn by the staff of security companies. Used together with the mobile app, it will offer the wearer greater comfort, especially on cold nights. At the same time, Shoester wants to use the mobile app to establish a direct communication channel to the shoe’s wearers for the purpose of increasing customer retention.
Like in the fictional Shoester example, many companies are currently venturing into technological fields outside of their core areas of expertise.
However, in addition to opening up big opportunities, this also poses the risk of getting lost in unfamiliar technological territory. When digitalising products, the main focus should always be on customer benefit.
Many product teams can’t see the forest for the trees
There are many hurdles to overcome on the road to creating a winning product from an initial idea. Alongside developing the core functions, the product team must also concentrate on a number of other tasks that are crucial for a successful market launch – such as evaluating suppliers and product partners, working with approval bodies, and developing a service and operating concept that takes into account quality aspects such as lifespan, reliability, and availability in addition to other factors.
At the same time, all development activities must be in harmony with the business case, the success of which often depends on keeping production costs within the defined limits and having a well-conceived customer and user experience.
With so many things to consider, there is a high risk of becoming disorientated and no longer being able to see the forest for the trees. The result of this is excessive costs and long delays. One of the main mistakes that companies make is failing to prioritise the key aspects and corresponding tasks. Determining which activities need to be dealt with when and with how much intensity in order to keep the functional scope, deadlines, and costs under control requires a great deal of experience and systems awareness.
A further difficulty is that many production teams can’t cover everything themselves and are reliant on the actions of other stakeholders such as development partners, approval bodies, and suppliers.
Agile navigation with roadmap and plan
To see the forest for the trees again and determine their exact position, businesses need a roadmap. Maturity models have proved to be a suitable tool on development projects. They can be used by the project team to determine the current status of the product development process in relation to the final goal at any time. Even a simple maturity model, leading from discovery to go-live to retirement, can already be a great help in classifying a product. It can also form the basis for a common understanding of maturity within the company or in discussions with external stakeholders.
The approach can then be planned in the next stage. Here, it is recommended to sketch a rough roadmap of the entire project and to only go into greater detail for the first milestone. It is essential to clearly define the responsibilities for the different aspects and reach a common understanding of what results should be achieved at which level of maturity.
The third key factor in addition to the roadmap (maturity model) and (project) plan is agility; the approach must be flexible and agile enough to be able to critically review the progress on an ongoing basis and keep realigning the route to the next milestone and the final destination with the actual conditions.
Maturity model aids successful development
Shoester recognised these challenges early on and developed the electrically heated safety shoe and app together with a contractor that could offer the exact expertise that Shoester was lacking. By using a maturity model, the development status of the product could be correctly determined at any time, while agile planning made it possible to deal with the various aspects at the right moment.
The Shoester example shows that an agile approach paired with the right maturity model are key success factors when developing complex products. Contact us to discuss your own specific requirements.
Daniel Wilhelm is a Business Solution Manager at Zühlke. His responsibility comprises sales and engagement management to deliver innovative products and services for the Health Tech industry. He is passionate to combine expertise in business and technology with a solution-oriented mindset to empower project teams and delight customers.