Quick Tips: 5 Ways to Speed up Blueprinting
Reduce Product Development Cycle Time
Almost every week, one of our clients or a company considering Blueprinting asks us how to accelerate the product development process – particularly the voice-of-customer (VOC) stages, which we call Discovery and Preference interviewing. Well, there’s no one way to go faster, but there are methods to help, especially when applied in combination. Here are a few things we regularly suggest:
Tighten your target market segment
For the purpose of VOC, we consider a segment a cluster of customers with similar needs. When that segment is broad, more interviews are required to find common outcomes, requiring more interviewing time. But when the segment is narrow – even as few as 6-8 companies – fewer interviews are needed, cutting time off the project. For example, if you make an additive for rubber products, consider a VOC project just for the passenger vehicle tire market, where just a handful of companies control the market and where very specific needs exist. Limiting your project to a defined geographic area can also save time.
Interview known accounts in known markets.
This approach can seem counter-intuitive. For innovation, we often think of new accounts in new markets. But we believe priceless insight exists in accounts we’ve called on for years and to whom we sell our most popular products and services. By starting in segments we know, we can skip the market research phase because we know the industry. By beginning with accounts we know, our interview set-up is usually quick and easy. Appointments with people and companies we don’t know sometimes requires weeks of networking and logistics.
Interview in smaller groups.
One of the challenges of good VOC interviews is the time it takes to coordinate the schedules of all your people who want to be part of the process and all of the customer’s people you’d like to hear from. An in-person meeting can require finding open days in common among 6-8 people – or more. If you’re in a hurry, why not scale it down? We recommend at least a moderator and note-taker on your side. On the customer side, you could still gain insight from 2 representatives, preferably one from the technical side and another from management. You should find setting up a meeting for just 4 people much quicker and easier.
Fast-track Preference Interviews.
We call the quantitative VOC phase Preference Interviews. Often, these take place after a series of open-ended qualitative Discovery Interviews. Conducting Preference Interviews with the same accounts interviewed for Discovery can be a real time-saver. During the Discovery Interview, ask the customer if you can come back – and possibly set the date right then and there. If you don’t have time (or budget) to travel back to the customer site, conduct the interview via web conference. In the event you are interviewing a single customer for a co-development project, you can even conduct a Discovery Interview in the morning and a Preference Interview that same afternoon – again saving time and travel dollars. However, when interviewing multiple customers, be sure to finish the Discovery process first, before moving on to Preference.
Ideate in Parallel.
The familiar rainbow visual of our Blueprinting stages shows a discrete sequence of steps, implying one must finish one step before moving on to the next. In addition, one of our core mantras remains “Search Now. Solve Later.” In other words, stay out of solution space until after completing your VOC. Unless…unless you’re confident about one of the customer outcomes and have an idea you think might work. You don’t need to share this solution with the customer yet, but you could start working on the concept. One AIM customer recently filed for a patent while still in the VOC stage. The solution seemed obvious and they took months off the product development time.
Do we want clients to always fly through VOC at the speed of sound? Of course not. Many clients move methodically through each Blueprinting step, taking whatever time is required to conduct interviews, analyze internally and present their new product business case. Yet, we understand suppliers don’t have that luxury in all situations. That’s why we see Blueprinting as a toolbox, not a singular one-size-fits-all approach. To learn more about Blueprinting’s flexibility, please feel free to contact Dave Loomis.