In a past post, I discussed the Role of the New Product Introduction Manager making references to the reasons to hire a NPI Manager and the skills required to be a good NPI Manager. This current post will explain the process of rolling out new products.
The process begins with an idea that management has decided should be turned into a new product. At this point in the process, a business plan should be available and should include critical information to help the NPI Manager, such as the target market, size of the market, market demographics, sales forecast, capital investment and break-even point. A Market Requirements Document (MRD) should also be available which outlines the required product features and functionality.
Depending on the size of the organization, the NPI Manager may fulfill a a purely Marketing role which means that she does not concern herself with the development phase; a Product Manager would be in charge of overseing development. In smaller to medium organizations, the NPI Manager may also be in charge of Product and Project Management. Regardless of the size of the organization, the NPI Manager should be involved at some level throughout the development phase in order to be familiar enough with the product to know how it will be marketed, sold, billed, inventoried ( if required), and supported.
It is the NPI Manager’s role to involve staff from each of the department that will be affected by the new product to ensure they understand their role in the NPI process; they must be ready to assume their responsibilities once the product is launched. As such, the NPI Manager must lead regular meetings with Managers from each affected department to explain their role and responsiblities and to assist in getting them ready for launch. For example, a new product may require weekly invoicing when all invoicing up to that point has run once per month. Changes may need to be made to the accounting system and the accounting staff may need to receive training. Furthermore, a new part number may need to be created, a product name and associated rate will need to be entered in the accounting system, and so forth.
Thus, the second phase of the process is to outlined each department’s role along with the departmental Managers and to establish regular meetings to follow up on the progress of each department. The NPI Manager must ensure no surprises come up at launch. It is imperative that the NPI Manager communicates well with each departmental head and ask them regularly whether there is anything at all she should be aware of that would cause any concern.
The third phase is training and testing. Once each department staff has been trained, a mock product roll out is a good idea. Internal staff or friendly outsiders could purchase or subscribe to the product in order to test provisioning, billing and support systems.