Many manufacturers struggle with accelerating their product development timelines. Just how does one do that? The answer is Scrum, a process framework for developing complex products. One could say it is an approach that applies Lean principles to product development cycles.
For those of you not familiar with Scrum, here’s a straightforward description of its fundamentals:*
What are the benefits of using Scrum? Here are a few worth mentioning: reduced speed-to-market timelines often result in lower product development costs; products are more on-target with customer needs; profitability increases, due to more successful product launches; and manufacturers can use their own teams of employees with a minimum of training and no required certifications.
Scrum has historically been used for software development. To a lesser degree, it’s been used on hard goods, such as cars, computer hardware, and aerospace products. However, based upon extensive research, there are not many documented cases for Scrum usage on manufactured goods. A real need definitely exists (how many manufacturers don’t want to accelerate the speed-to-market for their products?).
With the lack of established precedent, how does one go about implementing Scrum for manufactured goods? I had the same question and therefore began work on an answer.
Schier Products in Edwardsville wanted to do exactly what we’re talking about: implement a Scrum strategy for product development purposes. Their existing stage gate process was both inefficient and ineffective; their last new product development effort required two years to complete. Schier’s goal was to speed up their development timelines. I partnered with them to do just that.
Although my knowledge of Scrum is extensive, I had never before applied Scrum principles to manufactured goods, so there was a short period of trial and error. Hardware is obviously different from software in a lot of ways, so it took some adaptation and ingenuity to make Scrum work for them.
What have been the results? It required two months to develop and implement the process, and Schier is currently up and running with it. Better yet, they are on track to launch their latest new product within only six months of implementation. That is a whole lot better than two years!
I believe Scrum is a strong solution for increasing speed-to-market timelines for manufactured goods. Schier would have to agree as well!
If you are interested in learning more, please contact me at 816-429-1042 or email@example.com.
*Credit: Ramakrishna (Ramki) Ravulapalli
Imagine the following scenario…
Your business launched a highly anticipated new product or service into the market, and results were well below expectations. So much time, money and effort were spent on creating it, and the development team was positive it was going to take the market by storm.
Disappointed is hardly a word that describes everyone’s emotions. The ramifications were not too pretty as well…one person lost their job, another was demoted, revenues plummeted, etc. Thankfully someone on the development team asked the question: ”What could we have done differently?”
Perhaps you don’t need to imagine this situation, because it unfortunately happened in your business. If that’s the case, here’s an answer to this all-important question…it’s possible your business could have done a better of job of listening to the Voice of the Customer (VOC), before you ever started the development project. If customer requirements were well documented in advance, your new product or service could have been tailored to meet the customer needs. By doing so, the likelihood of a more successful product or service launch would have increased significantly.
This scenario, Product/Service Launch Failures, is just the first warning sign that your company needs to use VOC techniques. Here are other indicators:
High Levels of Customer Churn
There’s no need to scratch your head, wondering why they left. The best solution is to reach out to them and find out the reasons for their departure. Perhaps a survey or focus group would be beneficial. Then, armed with these insights, you can put together an action plan to resolve the issues.
Rising Customer Complaints
If you’ve noticed an uptick in your customer complaints, it’s time to start doing a better job of understanding what is making them unhappy. Next, devise a plan to reverse the trend.
It’s not a far leap to find a connection between less-than-stellar profits and less-than-happy customers. Digging in deep to find out the reasons for their disenchantment can provide actionable insights for your business.
No Formalized Method of Gathering, Recording or Acting on Customer Feedback
It’s so important to a business’ profitability to have a standardized way of ensuring feedback is properly gathered, stored, and acted upon. In fact, one study proves that companies with VOC programs outperform all others by as much as 22% across a number of categories, including revenue, customer churn, among others. There’s proof that VOC works!
What’s Your Story?
If your business hasn’t encountered these warning signs, congratulations! You’re most likely doing a good job of listening to your customers. However, if any of these situations sound familiar, your business could be a good candidate for using VOC techniques. It can only help your organization! What have you got to lose (besides customers, profitability, etc.)? ;-)
In my last blog article I discussed the effectiveness of Voice of the Customer (VOC). Now let's turn our attention to a quick overview of techniques that can help you improve your bottom line.
Voice of the Customer Techniques
There are many VOC techniques, but my favorites are: customer interviews, focus groups, observation, informal conversations, and customer surveys. Let’s briefly dive into each of these.
These are one-on-one conversations with customers that use a pre-determined interview guide that often take place at the customer site.
Focus groups involve a collaborative experience with a small group of customers so that feedback can build upon each other’s input.
Also known as Ethnographic Market Research (EMR), this involves interviewing and observing the customer while they interact with products.
This technically is not a traditional VOC technique, but how many of us have amazing conversations with our clients and we forget to document what we've learned? One client of mine made it a standalone model in their process, since they want to ensure they capture important content from these conversations.
I’m sure we’re all painfully aware of surveys, but they can be a quick and dirty way to gather feedback from customers.
How Can VOC Improve My Bottom Line?
Now you may ask, this information is all well and good, but how can these techniques help me?
In a nutshell, companies with VOC programs outperform all others across many categories, including increased revenue and customer win-back rate. Although these techniques are often used as standalone approaches, they are most effective as building blocks in a complete VOC program. When used in the context of such a program, every customer-facing employee has the ability to gather customer feedback across many different channels. As companies consistently gather, analyze and put this feedback to use, they are empowered to create products and services that customers want and expect. When that happens, companies can’t help but improve their bottom line!
Happy customers…what does it take to truly make them happy? Many organizations struggle with answering this question, but in today’s competitive business environment, organizations have do at least do a better job of listening to their customers in order to thrive. That’s why effective customer feedback strategies are so important, and using Voice of the Customer techniques is a great way to get there.
What is Voice of the Customer (VOC)?
It is an in-depth process that is used to gather customer requirements and feedback in order to provide customers with best-in-class services and/or products.
Voice of the Customer Works!
A study conducted by the Aberdeen Group in 2014 shows that companies that have VOC programs outperform all others by as much as 22% across nine categories, including annual company revenue and customer win-back rate. When organizations have these programs in place, knowing what customers want becomes more second nature, and products can be more easily created to meet these expectations.
Whether the focus is using VOC techniques to determine customer satisfaction levels with current products/services, capturing feedback to develop new products and/or services or ideally using both approaches, consistent use of VOC principles works.
What Happens When You Don't Use VOC...
How many of you have been involved in New Product Development (NPD) efforts and have experienced a newly launched product failing in the market? I’m sure it wasn’t a pretty picture. Perhaps the breakdown was due to changing customer demands. Or the product may not have functioned as the customer intended. In either case, a lot of resources were likely wasted to achieve mediocre results...poor sales and ROI. There's a good chance that this failure could have been avoided if VOC activities has properly occurred during NPD efforts. That is why capturing VOC is so important!
Here are some other examples of bad outcomes:
What Happens When You Do…
Many of these problems can be avoided when a VOC process is properly integrated into an organization. That way, a standard methodology and tools to capture customer feedback are at each employees' finger tips. Consistently gathering valuable feedback becomes more of an everyday experience when employees know how and when to use them. When this consistently occurs, great things can happen:
The Bottom Line
Today’s competitive environment requires an ever increasing need to listen to what customers want and expect from companies. To do otherwise can spell disaster. When VOC techniques are consistently used by an organization's employees, companies will have genuine customer feedback from which to make decisions during NPD and service delivery cycles. Making your customers happy will no longer a guessing game, and who doesn’t want that?