Focusing and Amplifying Innovation

Product Line Strategizing and Roadmapping (PLSR) is a powerful process. Smart managers use this process to coordinate and accelerate work that pulls together and creates critical insights related to a line of products. This might sound simple and straight-forward, but in practice, it is a dynamic and heady process. In a full architecture of new product development (see Figure 1), PLSR is a sub-process of the front-end, preceding concept generation, feasibility testing, and development activities.

Good product line roadmapping sets the stage for new product development, linking business strategy with real work and with real investments to advance product offerings. The goal of the process is to create a focus for innovation and set up the actions for advancing the product line. Resultant roadmaps will address all influences and true possibilities for product lines over both the short term and the long run.

Figure 1: Portfolio Line Strategizing and Roadmapping Process precedes Concept Generation

Innovation Output

Teams following a robust PLSR process will generate specific targets for product innovation, a priority ranking of current and potential projects, and a Strategy Story of whats, whys and hows for advancing the product line. These outputs give PLSR a fundamental role in product development. Indeed, organizations find that the process becomes integral to new product development efforts, and, in particular, to pipeline and portfolio management activities. Good PLSR output guides product development for the greatest impact in the market and the greatest leverage of technologies and brand equity. In essence, PLSR amplifies new product development efforts by combining relevant cross-functional knowledge with strategic and creative thinking.

Best Strategic Moves

Product line roadmapping is a knowledge process. Most organizations already have available much, but usually not all, of the bits of knowledge needed to conduct the process. The purpose of structuring PLSR as a process is to provide guidance and coordination of cross-functional work in gathering, and where necessary, generating the needed knowledge. This assures that a full, strategic orientation can be taken in support of product line optimization. Such focus is powerful. It enables management to concentrate all facets of business on the best creative and strategic moves for the product line, and to do so while recognizing both real opportunities and real constraints.

The exact process and its flow need to be specific to the organization. A general template for the process can be used to set up the process, but it is unlikely to be the perfect approach over the long run. It is important, though, that the process — its flow of work, information, and decisions — be customized while carrying out the process. For this, using outside expert facilitation is enormously helpful in getting through the process and modifying it to fit the organization better.

Product line roadmapping must be taken very seriously by the organization. When executed well, PLSR is the goose that lays golden eggs of new product development. It is just a matter of doing it, and doing it well.

Read more about this topic in the whitepaper titled Strategizing, Roadmapping and Executing the Product Line.

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