Developing the Strategic Product Road

The development of a product road map flows logically from the product innovation strategy. Delineating the major initiatives required as part of the product road map is a multifaceted task:

• Strategic assessment. Sometimes the mere specification of a strategic arena as top priority leads logically to a list of those products and projects that are necessary to enter and be successful in that arena. For example, a major health products company identified "wound care" as a priority strategic arena (the company already sold a few products in this health care sector but was a minor player). However, once "wound care" was made top priority, the specific products the company needed to be a force in this sector became evident, and the development programs to generate these products fell into a logical sequence in a product road map.

• Portfolio review of existing products. Here, one takes a hard look at the business's current product offerings and decides which are tired and should be pruned and which should be replaced. Forecasts of products' life cycles often reveal the need and timing for replacement products or perhaps even a new platform. In addition, gaps in the product line are identified. In this way, place marks are inserted in the product road map for these required developments. Such an exercise is undertaken periodically in order to keep the product line fresh, current, and complete.

• Competitive analysis. Where are the business's products and product lines relative to those of its competitors? Here one assesses competitors' current and probable future offerings and where they have advantage, and then assesses the gaps. This exercise often points to the need for new products either immediately or in the foreseeable future.

• Technology trend assessment. Here one forecasts technology and what new technologies, and hence new platform developments, will be required and their timing. For example, each new cell phone technology signals a host of development projects within cell phone manufacturing firms and also within service providers.

• Market trends assessment. This is a forecasting exercise and looks at major market trends and shifts. In this exercise, often one is able to pinpoint specific initiatives that must be undertaken in response to these evident trends; for example, in the food business, "the development of a line of nutriceutical 'good-for-you' foods."

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Project Management Made Easy

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