New product development has never been a simple endeavor, but the unprecedented challenges we’ve seen over the last two years are forcing companies to rethink how they address innovation. In the coming year, organizations will have to navigate three distinct challenges to increase the likelihood of new product development success: supply chain delays, a tight labor market and collaboration obstructions.
Companies will combat supply chain uncertainties with innovation management
The first half of 2022 will be marked by continued supply chain disruptions coupled with high consumer demand across many industries. This combination will make it extremely difficult for manufacturers to get existing products onto shelves. And it’ll be even more of a challenge to launch new products.
The disrupted supply chain has drastically reduced the margin for error for product development teams—every mistake, regardless of size, is magnified right now. To combat supply chain challenges, I expect companies to dedicate more resources toward flexible innovation management processes that reduce new product development miscues and potential time-to-market delays. One such process is a zero-based approach to product management, which:
- Incorporates core, structured elements of innovation processes at each stage of the product value chain, ensuring that essential details are included.
- Allows team leaders to shorten or amend assigned tasks to reflect the unique nature of the product being developed and address unexpected challenges in real-time.
By adopting a more flexible approach, companies can reduce risks that could further delay the launch—something all product manufacturers will need in the coming year.
Project resource management gets more creative in a tight labor market
The competitive labor market and upward pressure on salaries will continue in 2022, placing tremendous stress on the product management process. Talent shortages may require specific tasks to be delegated to others until replacements are hired. And new employees who join the team may face a steep learning curve.
Both situations represent a potential production slowdown as current employees adapt to readjusted responsibilities and new employees onboard into existing teams. Expect more employers to address project resource management challenges with technology that captures and documents all the work accomplished so that new/different employees can move forward with minimal disruptions. With collaborative, transparent workflows, employees will get up to speed more efficiently and reduce much of the stress related to new tasks.
It’s also important for companies to consider the positive impact labor shortages can have on opportunities for innovation. This is especially true in industries historically based on service provided by people (dining, shopping, etc.), where we’ll see a shift toward more consumer self-service. We’ll see an increase in products that provide labor savings or replace labor altogether in other sectors.
Companies will get smarter in producing smart products
The most desirable products in 2022 will make it easier for consumers to use, enjoy and realize value—smart products. However, developing smart products can be deceptively difficult. Companies must be careful in the production process to adhere to a rigorous management process that ensures upgrades and new products are launched only when they’re fully baked.
Product managers must understand that the teams producing the physical product and the connected components have different working cultures, processes and timelines. Successful smart product development requires transparent, collaborative workflows, allowing everyone to see how other teams are progressing and address potential delays early.
Beyond these reasons, transparency and collaboration help bring teams together and allow everyone to get a better idea of the challenges each faces in meeting agreed upon deadlines. By doing so, team members learn from one another and apply new ideas towards innovation. The end result: You move from numerous teams functioning in a series of silos to an integrated, cross-functional team working together toward a shared goal.
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