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Burning money in the product development process? Don’t get wasted

Product Development ProcessAre you wasting money in a messy product development process? Are you constantly losing sight of your priorities and stumbling at regulatory hurdles? When your process is not effectively managing project goals, objectives and dependencies, it’s easy to become trapped in your own product development cycle.  

With only 3% of tech start ups reportedly making it to their 5th year of business, it’s worth reflecting how a properly planned and executed dev process can make the difference between success and failure. What are the lessons that your business needs to learn, and who can teach them?

Lessons from history for the high tech sector

It’s rare that medieval monarchs have lessons for high tech business in the 21st Century, but here’s one.

Shakespeare’s King Richard II, robbed of his crown and lying, starving in a dungeon after three hours failing to do anything worthwhile on stage; reflects on his life:

“I wasted time and now doth time waste me” he says, in despair

His rule has been wasteful, weak and inefficient - unable to make his grand vision a reality (spoiler alert) it’s literally destroyed him.

Trapped in an inefficient business process

Wasting time and resource at any stage of a development process can leave a product languishing, too. Tied up with red tape or seemingly trapped forever in a prison of flawed business process.

And the longer a product takes to get to market and realise its potential, the more its value is going to be eroded. This is particularly true in the high tech sector, where resource is expensive and technology and competition moves fast.

In the end, if your business is not able to move quickly enough to complete a project, your product could be brutally usurped by a competitor or lose the struggle for life altogether.

Cutting waste in the R&D process

The ideation and design process of a new product can be an exciting time for a business. Here is where creative ideas flow, where imaginative, technical solutions are conceived and tested.

But transforming these exciting, creative ideas into a practical business plan can be a major challenge.

The impulse of developers in the throes of invention is to think on a grand scale; to imagine solutions that might hinge on untested theories or technology. It is the job of the company as a whole to step back and manage those ambitions in a commercial way, to test the business case and seek approval from stakeholders before proceeding to development. Stakeholders need to agree, with reference to plans and supporting documentation, that there is demand for the proposed product, and that it can be delivered on time and on budget.

To misquote Shakespeare, a developer’s eye might be in ‘a fine frenzy rolling… from earth to heaven’ , but someone also needs to keep an eye on the bottom line.

Lean Document Management Systems stop the waste

A document management system can help martial the creative and commercial parts of your business to make visions reality in a controlled way. A ‘phased gate’ approach to development, means that each stage of a project can be assessed and approved before it can proceed further towards completion.

 This ensures that all design and functional requirements are captured at the beginning of a process, while continually guarding against scope creep. It ensures roles, responsibilities and tasks are properly defined so that jobs are not duplicated or time wasted.

 With business management tools that optimise these processes you won’t get stuck in a loop of missed deadlines or misdirected effort, where mistakes are constantly having to be rectified and final delivery postponed.

The right DMS will help control the development of a product from design to completion, saving your delivery process from the risk of limbo and mounting costs.

 Avoiding the regulatory wasteland

The challenge of backsolving compliance can also keep products in limbo for extended periods,

Discovering ways your business needs to comply with regulations after a product has been developed can be disastrous for a delivery schedule.

Whether it’s through an incomplete discovery process or an unnoticed detail in a raft of documentation early on, your product may end up without regulatory approval, sitting in ‘staging’ - unable to be released and costing you money.

Alternatively, the Quality Assurance requirements of a certification authority or regulatory body may have had unwelcome surprises for you. In highly regulated sectors, after all, the QA bar is high.

Medical device developers, for example, will be required to demonstrate their design process has factored in all the risk-based thinking necessary to manufacture a truly safe end-product.

A document management system designed to reflect the demands of ISO certification will certainly help you manage the toughest regulatory challenges. It will also help prevent mistakes occurring in the discovery process, allowing key stakeholders to capture omissions and correct potential problems.

The earlier these solutions are introduced into your working environment, the less time and money you will waste later on setting them up and making your process compliant in reverse.

Delivering high tech products on time and on budget

Without the rigour of high-quality Business Process Management tools to oversee a complex, high tech production process, a delivery schedule can quickly unravel.

It might be that errors creep into a design through inadequate version control or an overlooked regulation in a scrappy discovery process. It could be that your systems are unable to effectively define the tasks, roles and responsibilities that should keep a project on track. Maybe collaboration with a third party supplier is conducted via Dropbox and changes made to vital documentation on your servers don’t reach them. It might be one team working from an old version of a document duplicates work done by another team.

It’s easy to see how a combination of these challenges might quickly burn through your development cash and make your efforts unprofitable. Or, how, while you are trapped in a cycle of correction and delay a competitor is able to get to market before you.

However, using the right business process management tools with the right DMS, will protect you from the worst of these scenarios. The right tools will help you visualise and make certain processes more efficient. They will be able to help you manage the release of documentation to the right people at the right time. They will help you deliver well designed products on time and on budget.

Don’t get wasted

The lesson here is a stark one. No matter how great your ambitions, if you waste time and fail to manage your resources properly - your business could end up being wasted, too.

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Tags: product development process, business management tools