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Final Project Review Checklist

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Thu 5/17/07

Mon 5/21/07

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Go or No-Go

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Setup for Project Review: Go or No-Go Decision

The concept phase is important because these front-end activities of analysis and evaluation help to prepare for the go or no-go decision at the end of this phase in project review. Project setup increases the chance that if the product does not have potential, the company can stop the process of development in time to save valuable resources. At this stage, it is key that good data and insight are provided about the product or service under consideration.

The way management commits to the project at this point depends on company policy and procedures, but it is recommended that top management sign off on the scope document and perhaps other outputs of this phase, and that they participate in the concept phase project review to determine whether the product moves on to development. Although members of the new product team should not make this decision, they should be party to it.

The concept phase is also important as a preparatory step for making the financial, technical, marketing, and business arguments in project review for the product. It helps build the case that is made by the project team and sponsor at project review. It is important to remember that project review is designed to review and pass on the product. An advocacy process is developed here with the sponsor making the case in project review, and management authorizing advancement—or raising substantive issues that must be addressed before the product goes any farther. Some companies use a scoring system to make the decision, but in the end it is always a judgement call.

Project review: Go or no-go time

Preparing for project review is as a significant step in concept definition as in each phase. Project review in the new product development process serves as the critical milestone for go and no-go decisions, referred to in some circles as the "stage-gate" decision, a term coined by Robert Cooper (author of Winning at New Products, Basic Books, Third Edition, 2001). It also serves as the window for advocacy, debate, and analysis of new product concepts—the time for sponsorship to "show up." In part, the project reviews after each phase of the process can be looked at as a social and team building event as well as decision time, not just an analytic, data-driven exercise. The social and organizational benefits of this project review process come from the opportunity for advocacy and presentation, for discussion and commitment among company and project management. This is the time for critical reviews of schedules, budgets, quality, and feasibility, and also for strategic alignment of the product regarding where the company intends to go.

In this first phase project review, go and no-go decisions are based on the concept definition, project value analysis, and financial performance projections. They are also based on the intuitive and instinctive responses of the project sponsors.

Agendas are established for the project review, accomplished through email or Web conferencing as well as physical project review meetings that bring the key parties together.

The window for advocacy is the test of commitment and sponsorship; this is the point at which a product becomes an orphan or a family member—when management sponsorship either shows up to advocate or withdraws support for lack of rationale.

Project review is the term applied to the review of the outcomes of each project phase when deciding the next steps for the product concept. The essential question is whether the product should enter the next phase, e.g., that it has been justified in terms of projected costs and benefits.

It is also important to note that in the real world, new products don't proceed cleanly through concepts and phases as described in textbooks on new product development. It is a messy process, filled with unanticipated roadblocks and irrationalities. The concept actually shifts among concept, development, testing, and marketing as it moves toward distribution, or is terminated.

Going from Idea to Concept to Product

There is a progression in getting an idea to concept to product, as illustrated in Table 4-2. Ideas become concepts when they are documented and described in general conceptual terms; concepts then become new products when requirements are identified in the context of the concept, and alternative performance standards and sometimes designs developed; and finally concepts become new product applications when the product is "seen" in a user or customer environment, either through simulation or real customer testing.

New Product Concept Proposal

The first team task after scheduling the project review process from the generic template is the preparation of a product concept document. Think of the concept document as a proposal that includes features and functional requirements— customer value. The proposal should also include technical and logistics challenges in marketing the product. The proposal is formulated from available information and structured as a proposal for evaluation. The proposal addresses the product's performance requirements and features in very broad terms, its potential value to customer, its value to the business, and competitive issues. The proposal is typically a short, four- to five-page document, written as an

TABLE 4-2 Idea to Concept

Idea

Concept

Product

Application

Comment

Customer not Develop a new, served well by computer-driven coffee maker coffee maker

Soft drink vending machine systems archaic

Design new soft drink machine built into user environment

Chip-based coffee maker integrated with coffee bean/ grounds supplier

Integrate vending machine into new building design

Hotel and home-based use of computer-driven coffee maker

New building design incorporates vending concepts

Competition working on it; need four-month time to market

Requires partnering with architectural industry executive summary with appendices and references for further assessment. However, the proposal should not take more than 15 minutes to read at this point; it is a highlight document. Later it may be presented in project review as a PowerPoint presentation in summary form.

The proposal is a preliminary scope of work, of sorts, addressing the plan for making this a product, thus bringing value to the business and its growth plans.

Need, Form, and Technology

The proposal addresses need, form, and technology. Need addresses market and customer demand, and whether the product will actually meet an expressed need of the product. Form shapes the product in graphics terms so its dimensions— its look and feel—can be reviewed. Technology defines the technical systems and interfaces that occur inside as well as outside the product. The concept can be seen in Figure 4-2.

Project Value Assessment

Project value assessment is an estimate of the stream of value, e.g., benefits the product will bring to customers and to the business. This takes into account various consumer price ranges as well as what revenues, opportunities, and benefits it will produce for the business. All costs and logistics issues associated with the product, both pro and con, are identified. This valuation activity tests the product's cost/benefit early to get the bottom-line issues on the table in preparation for the first project review to determine go or no-go. Again, concept definition, like all phases in the process, is aimed at preparing the business for the next project review decision that either enables the product to proceed to the next phase, or terminates it.

Valuation requires some understanding of customer needs, requirements, and wants, and the company should see clearly the differences among these issues. Needs refers to a customer's functional demand, e.g., it is evident that a pilot of a business aircraft needs a digitized and reliable altitude instrument. Requirements cover the actual functional performance standards of the instrument and its implications for design to meet the need. Wants are customer desires, evidenced in market research or market tests, demands that may not match needs or requirements. What does the customer need to enhance the

Figure 4-2 Product model.

customer value of the product, what are the requirements of a system or product to meet that need, and what do customers actually want? Sometimes the answers to these questions generate conflicting objectives and goals for the product, which are worked out in an alternative analysis later. The focus here is the general performance of a product to meet a need, not its detailed design or dimension.

This analysis gives dimension to the uniqueness of the product concept in meeting a current or yet unanticipated need by the customer. What differentiates the product from others? What features could it have that will satisfy the cost, convenience, efficiency, effectiveness, profitability, and regulatory needs of a customer or sector?

In new product development, we are primarily looking for incremental value or breakthrough value. Incremental value adds benefits to an already functioning product, but in a distinct way. Breakthrough value induces demand to meet a current or new need that is neglected in the marketplace. Why would the customer be willing to pay a particular price for the product; what process of thinking and rationalizing would the customer go through?

The analysis of value also includes a preliminary overview of the financials. The goal is to provide preliminary insight into the market, including size and potential market share, and into sales price, sales forecasts, expected margin, cost to produce, and revenues. In general, this deliverable should answer a major question—is the projected margin high enough, given the company hurdle rate, and does the idea/concept have potential and sustainable competitive differentiation in the marketplace?

The analysis should build on data generated earlier in portfolio development and project selection and will include:

■ Description of the market and market share—What does the market look like, and what share can the company expect to gain through this new product initiative?

■ Logistics—What are the distribution, support, and logistic issues associated with the product that could present problems down the product development and marketing path?

■ Sales forecasts—What kinds of sales and pricing can be expected under specific conditions?

■ Estimated cost to develop and produce—What will be the project costs to get the product into the market quickly?

■ Profitability and preliminary margin—What will be the product selling price and when will revenues cover costs?

Estimating Product Value in New Systems or Process Concepts

Product value is in the product concept and system, not simply the product itself. In other words, new products and services fit into a user or customer environment or user system. It is not simply the product function that creates value; it is the product function in the context of a customer setting. So you must know the customer setting.

Consider new products to include new systems and processes. A new product for bagging groceries creates the opportunity for improving the whole process of bagging groceries in the customer's place of business. It is not just the new sack; it is the way the new sack helps customers get groceries safely to their cars and the confidence with which the grocery baggers use the sack. It is a mistake to limit thinking about new products to consumer product issues alone. New products include internal and support products and systems, e.g., new computer networks and new manufacturing processes, that add value to the business. Value is calculated in terms of cost avoidance, productivity, and management effectiveness.

Concept Risk Assessment

Concept risk assessment is a preliminary assessment of all risks associated with the concept/product. This includes feasibility, test failure, technical performance, market, regulatory, development, and resources. Each risk area receives an evaluation of high, medium, or low. Activities judged to be medium or high require explanation. A risk matrix is created at this point, formatted as shown in Table 4-3 using a public safety broadband concept as an example.

In completing the risk matrix at this point, we are looking at the project as a whole, but this activity may also highlight particular project tasks that will

TABLE 4-3 Risk Matrix: New Public Safety Broadband Concept

Nature of risk

Risk defined

Probability

Impact

Severity

Contingency plan

Feasibility

New broadband concept is found to be unfeasible, given current public policy and regulations

50%

Showstopper

Major

Partner with regulatory agencies and get subsidy from public sources to float concept

Technical performance

New public safely platform does not work

25%

Medium

Minor

Simulate platform options and test in working community environment

Resources

Outside funding is not found

50%

Medium

Major

Find venture capitalist

Test failure

System does not perform to specifications

25%

Low

Medium

Run early simulated tests and change standards if unattainable

Competition

Competition comes up with concept and markets it

50%

Medium

Medium

Work out partnership with competing interests

create risk—and opportunity. Because overcoming risk in a new product creates opportunity, risk assessment is focused on what the company can achieve in the new product to create advantage in the marketplace. The following defines each analysis as shown in Table 4-3.

■ Nature of risk—This activity categorizes the risk in terms of general source.

■ Risk defined—This activity defines the risk in terms of what the risk event is and how it could occur.

■ Probability—This is a subjective qualitative assessment, ranking risk in terms of likelihood of occurrence, say in terms of 25, 50, or 75 percent.

■ Impact severity—This is a ranking activity, placing the risk in a category of High (showstopper, will terminate the project), Medium, or Low.

■ Contingency plan—This is the corrective response to the risk, an action plan to either prevent or offset the risk. This activity is sometimes included in the schedule of the project later if the probability and impact of the risk are high. The contingency is not simply "doing this task better"; rather, it is a new approach to overcoming the risk, perhaps through a new process or technique.

External analysis: Public policy analysis

A public policy analysis is the external view of the product, looking at the economic, regulatory, and social factors that will impact product success. If the product concept is subject to governmental or regulatory requirements in any country in which it will be marketed, an analysis is made of the potential safety, environmental, economic, or local impacts. The aim is to identify anticipated regulatory and safety constraints by agency and country, if applicable. This environmental scan is likely to capture other outside forces, including potential current events that could influence the success of the product in a given market setting. For instance, a political change in a given country may influence the potential success of a given product or service. This process should not be seen as a defensive one simply to protect the company; often, these outside standards provide new ideas on how to improve product performance in a given customer setting.

Intellectual property analysis

If the new product has potential intellectual property value, e.g., it can be patented or copyrighted, an analysis is performed on the risks and processes associated with intellectual property control and potential loss. This analysis requires a full understanding of current and projected intellectual property law and regulatory structure, and thus should be performed by IP specialists. This analysis will include a look at opportunities to take advantage of patent, license, and copyright opportunities, and other ways to preserve and protect intellectual property. A risk assessment is completed on risks associated with failure to control intellectual property.

Market demand and other impacts

This is a rough assessment of market demand. The concept is looked at in terms of the dimension of potential market demand as well as in terms of market characteristics and financial performance for business growth given the estimated demand. What is the demand likely to be for the product, and will it generate adequate revenues in the marketplace to cover development costs and produce profitability and market share goals? If so, over what period of time? If the new product is an internal system or process improvement, the activity becomes an assessment of whether the improvement is really needed, and whether it promises to produce continuous improvement in business operations and effectiveness. Other impacts of the product or system on corporate or agency operations are also reviewed. For instance, a product may replace another or impact on the performance or market share of another. These impacts need to be injected into the decision process.

This is the beginning of the process for developing a market launch case and rationale. Most data addressed here are preliminary and do not require in-depth market analysis, but there needs to be enough of a case for the product to suggest moving on. On the other hand, if the product or system is a breakthrough improvement, the issue is how much the product will induce new demand; that is, how will the product change the current demand picture simply because it will create new value for customer, user, or client?

Here is where the "voice of the customer" is sought out; where potential users, clients, and/or customers, as well as stakeholders, are identified and dimensioned using focus groups, simulations, and other tools.

Product Functional Specifications

How will the product work and what are its functional specifications? The concept phase fleshes out technical specifications for the product in high-level terms. In this phase the product is defined in terms of function and performance, not necessarily in terms of design. In other words, the focus is on how the product will serve customers' needs in the user setting. Specific design issues are left open for the development phase, although models can be developed to clarify the look and feel of the product.

The product's functional specification is outlined in high-level terms. Functional specification describes how the product will perform and what design specifications might enable it to perform at its highest level of efficiency. Not all the design data is available at this point, but enough information is gathered to allow management to gain a vision of the product in an operating situation.

Table 4-4 shows an example of a high-level product.

The definition of functional specifications for a new product is a tricky process in this initial concept development phase because the tendency is to go into too much detail (premature lock-in) on how the product will work and how it should be designed before analyzing its potential value to the customer and its business value to the company at a high level.

TABLE 4-4 High-Level Product Specification

Desired performance attribute

General functional specification

Customer's priority

Comparison to industry or competitive standard

Comments

Helps cell phone

Must create place

High

Current cell phone

Current holders do

users use phone

for cell phone in

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