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Monday, October 1, 2012

First to market with CRAP detracts and loses business

Open for business should be with a great final product
Everyone must have heard of the iPhone map problem.  Apple wanted to move away from Google and decided to provide their mapping application.  Not sure where the breakdown occurred but the company failed to adequately test the final product and Apple launched an inferior map application.  The CEO apologized and suggested that people use the Google Map application until Apple resolved the problem.  Apple can weather these storms because of their size, dominance in the market, and wealth.  The demand for their products will continue and this minor glitch will eventually fade from memory.  Startups and early stage business companies may not find the same acceptance in the market place when presenting inferior products.

The drive to produce products as rapidly as possible is part of the makeup of startups.  It is easy to develop aggressive timelines and drive the team to meet them.  Sometimes teams take shortcuts to meet the timelines and this has the potential to accelerate development but it can also allow for creation of unexpected errors.  The effects of detected or undetected errors on the business can be rather significant when problems occur with your users.

The issues can be even more complex when the acceleration occurs in regulated areas like those with the FDA.  Pushing the product too fast without proper development of manufacturing can result in issues so complex the FDA withholds approval.  This means no product launch until resolution of manufacturing issues and final site and process approval by FDA approves.  Some companies have taken years to correct FDA identified problems!  When it is a patient safety problem, the complexity can become serious and life threating.  Companies have gone out of business over these types of issues.

Consumer products launched with flaws create unhappy consumers.  Some customers will be lost forever while others may take their time returning.  They may be more cautious of future purchases. The word of mouth relay of the issues can prevent new customers from considering a purchase and counter any advertising effort.  It is very hard to regain the trust of those you wish to buy your products.  If you had loyal customers, it is possible some will go elsewhere and never return.

Timely product development is extremely important.  Being first to market may make a large difference in the market capture over the short and long term.  Your customers will be loyal to quality and service. When they experience high satisfaction, they tend to keep coming back.  Managing for rapid development and launch is important, but not at the expense of losing the product acceptance by your customers.  It is better to do it right the first time than try to regain the market lost by improper testing or development.  When creating your timelines, try to add a solid testing and evaluation phase to ensure you do get it right the first time.  You will not be sorry!