Monday, May 01, 2006

Is this really the best we can do?

I spoke with a friend who is working in a large, well-known telecommunications firm. The firm has had some significant financial difficulties but is working its way back. Of course, given the focus on improving financial metrics, they, like many other firms I am working with are looking at Six Sigma as a way to improve business processes and financial operations.

That's great, but it wasn't poor financial processes that got them into financial trouble. What happens when financial people run a product business is that everything becomes about the financial metrics, which means risk goes out the window and everything becomes about squeezing the last dollar out of existing products and services. This is the second iteration at improving processes and right sizing the organization, at a time of immense change in the telecommunications industry.

So, with all the focus on process improvement and the recognition for the need for new products and services, what's being done about new product development, innovation and idea management? Right now, the leading edge practice is to "get in a room and toss ideas out and see what sticks". At least there is some collaboration and brainstorming going on, but little work being done on trends and what's happening in the market, or implementing a process to capture and manage ideas to the new product development process. Many firms, like this one, have a reasonably developed new product development process. They lack tools, processes and methodologies for getting an idea from first generation to the point where the idea is ready to be worked by the NPD process.

What strikes me is that this firm is going to spend probably hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve existing processes to squeeze out small gains, and ignore what should be the most important process of all in a very competitive market - how to bring new products and services to market more quickly, that meet what customers need. Is an ad hoc process really the best these guys can do? Why does innovation take a back seat to other processes?
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 2:57 PM


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12:30 AM  
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