A company in the ICT sector requested support with setting up a New Product Introduction (NPI) process for outdated computer equipment. Of course an NPI process fits within the segment of improving innovation processes but why an NPI process for outdated equipment?
However, when you look closely this question provides insight in how fast, groundbreaking innovation works and what the consequences are of a high speed of innovation.
What is the case? Suppose you want to develop a pioneering new system to enable a new production technology. For the control of all equipment in the system, you select the newest, most appropriate computer equipment. And, while the development of your new production system progresses also the supplier of the computer will work continuously to improve its product. And so it may happen that the new computer selected for controlling the new system already becomes outdated during your development and can no longer be supplied. What to do now?
To avoid any risk of disruption or delay of the development project you as system developer do not want to invest in integrating a new computer into the system and you are forced to obtain the already selected equipment elsewhere. An additional advantage of using already existing equipment is that maintenance is much more predictable and less spare parts need to be kept in stock. Fortunately, this is possible but it means that another vendor has to be involved. Also this new vendor has to introduce an outdated product to the market!
Market introduction of an outdated product requires a different process than market introduction of a new product. The risk the outdated product will not meet the customer expectations is of course virtually absent; the customer already knows the product and is comfortable with. Yet market introduction of an outdated product is not without risk. Is the product still sufficiently available on the second hand market? Is it possible to bring a product already used in such a state that it can be re-sold under warranty?
To give proper answers to these questions a dedicated NPI process has been developed together with the customer but with a few distinct emphases. To facilitate effective collaboration between the stakeholders within the company a highly simplified form of project management has been selected with clearly identifiable phasing. Also, a simple but effective method of risk management has been introduced in order to timely identify and mitigate risks and prevent delays. The customer will have little understanding for a delayed market introduction of a product that already exists!
So it turns out that one of the surprising consequences of a high innovation speed is the need to introduce outdated products to the market. Then it turned out that market introduction of outdated products is not without risks and these risks require a dedicated and tailor-made NPI process.