New product development is often seen as the life-blood of any company, and rightly so. If you aren't innovating, you're stagnating. Interestingly, developing your business is not that much different than developing your product.
OtterBox recently launched its new Armor Series case for the iPhone--a case that guards against water, drops, dust, and crush. That's a lot of protection, and the case required a lot of engineering from a very talented team. It also gave me a chance to be more involved in design than I had been for a few years.
After focusing so much of my time on designing a business structure, it was nice to get back to the design table alongside the engineering team. I was struck by how many parallels there are between the two very different but very important processes. The challenges and opportunities found in product design are really not much different than the ones you will encounter creating the structure for your business:
As markets shift, so do the needs and wants of customers. In mobile technology, the landscape is changing rapidly so innovative new products are a must. In the same way, your business requires innovations in process on a regular basis. As your company grows, it demands the next 'big thing.'
With a product like the Armor Series, there are many separate but interconnected elements. During design, when one element was tweaked, another was often impacted. Newton's Law is alive and well--every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Rather than change many elements at once, it is best to change one and then test to ensure everything else is still working. The same is true in business processes. An update to one process might have an unintended impact on another one. That doesn't mean you should be paralyzed due to fear of change. Rather, be ready to accept that a great new system or process that fixes one issue might, in turn, cause one in a different area of the business.
These are "pre-launch" considerations. Planning is so critical to success, but so is speed. The trick is balancing the two. I'll detail the "post-launch" similarities between product development and business development in the next column.