In their report The path to successful new products McKinsey found that the businesses with the best product-development track records do three things better than their less-successful peers:
- They create a clear sense of project goals early on;
- They nurture a strong project culture in their workplace; and,
- They maintain close contact with customers throughout a project's duration.
Doing these things created real advantage - "The teams in our study that embraced these tactics were 17 times as likely as the laggards to have projects come in on time, five times as likely to be on budget, and twice as likely to meet their company's return-on-investment targets".
With respect to project goals, the main finding was that clarity of scope was the main differentiator between high and low performing companies. That hardly qualifies as an insight, but it obviously requires ongoing attention in every project.
With regard to scope, requirements, and communication Wendy Soucie has a really good presentation Project Management, Social Media, and Productivity and there is also The Social Media Project Manager. Social media can play a strong role here in making sure that everyone is on the same page, and that changes and variations are totally understood across the team, and thus help manage risk and cost.
McKinsey reports that the successful innovators "kept in close contact with customers throughout the development process. More than 80 percent of the top performers said they periodically tested and validated customer preferences during the development process, compared with just 43 percent of bottom performers. They were also twice as likely as the laggards to research what, exactly, customers wanted".
Social media not only plays a key role in this traditional sense of keeping in contact with customers, but also in two new dimensions. Firstly it speeds the customer development path compared to more traditional contact-feedback methods e.g. focus groups and "market research". There are many examples such as IBM sMash and Starbucks and my own presentation From Innovation to Wealth Creation - Getting Closer to Customers Faster.
Secondly it more naturally enables the opportunity, oft promoted by Axel Scultze, to bring customers right into the product development process. Right in starting from the strategy, the clarity of goals, then the development cycle, the trials, and the promotion and launch.
Doing this requires some courage, but it's success becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as those customers become advocates. They are clearly in the process because they are potential users of the product/service, and they will therefore have their own influence and networks among similar clients. That's where WOM comes in and builds upon the success of the lifecycle engagement of such customers in the product development.
And money can't buy that, no matter how many focus groups and how much "market research" you do!!How do you use social media to improve product development, and what's the impact?