It’s that time again when the best and brightest roll up their sleeves and dive into ‘reading the tea leaves’ – some even compulsively. No, I am not talking about the November 6th Elections. I am talking about the longer-term (12 to 18 month) business planning cycle.
Dynamic companies all over the world have started, or are well into their 2013 Planning process. Irrespective of their fiscal planning cycles, this is a critical time to pause and invest energies in making projections for the year ahead. Among the many transitions, have you considered this?
Plan carefully and deliberately for Product Transitions – Product transitions (major or minor changes in Products) are a critical time for technology-intensive companies. To stay focused, I will discuss those changes to products caused by “sustaining”  improvements in product technologies. For a computing tablet maker (such as Apple’s iPad) this could be a better display (e.g., ‘Retina’ display), more memory, etc. While many of the critical ingredients needed to run Operations during such Product Transitions are well understood by Product Companies, several key variables remain elusive:
- How will the new product (or new revision) ramp-up in volume? Will it meet targets?
- How will it impact the demand for existing products?
- How to manage the upside and downside risk?
These are just a few of the critical questions that cross-functional Product and Operations teams have to answer. Done right, Product Transitions can generate the next new source of Revenue and Growth. Any slip-ups, on the other hand, can deal a rough hand to the company– millions of dollars of unplanned inventory write-offs, or open the doors for competitors to sneak into a nascent market.
Interacting with cross-functional Operations and Product teams at companies such as HP and Samsung, I got some rare insights. The single biggest one –
Processes & Planning for Product Transitions have unique needs and need to be given focused attention and resources.
So, as you go through your planning cycle, set aside some bandwidth to carefully account for this process. If you have comments or need some thought starters, please drop me a line.
 Clayton Christensen ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’