To empower a product development team for success, the definition of objectives depend on clear thinking by the responsible executives. To help clarify objectives, we have a few questions that are helpful (and this is by no means an exhaustive list).
- Are we selecting technologies that expand our capabilities or ones that draw on current strengths?
- If moving into a new market, is management prepared for weak initial products as we learn the market (i.e., are we using the Sony model or the IBM model)?
- Have resources been allocated to investigate alternative methods, new partners, or outside inventions? Can we avoid the dreaded “not invented here” syndrome?
- Should IP be ‘in’ the new technology or ‘around’ it (are we patenting our solution or are we patenting all forseeably possible solutions)?
- Who else could move into our space?
- When trading speed for features, how good is good enough? Can we clearly define the necessary functionality vs. the desired functionality?
- How do we find out what the market really needs, instead of just what we plan to make?
- Are we going to obsolete our first products, or will we let the competition do that?
- Will the market opportunity still exist when we finish design and commercialization?
You must know the answers to these questions. Maybe corporate culture has the answers for some of them; a company with a risk-adverse culture will develop a technology based on what is already mastered, where a start-up will probably go for the most promising route. But most likely these questions will not be discussed and the decisions will not be documented. There’s a lot of other questions that could be considered, but they all pertain to a few questions that only the executives can answer: Where are we going from here, how do we want to get there, and what are we willing to sacrifice? Think those through, collectively, and then document the decisions so that the project team can be empowered to do their work.