Optimize Time to Market by Including NPD in Your Digital Transformation Program


What could the results be when companies commit to radically improving their new product development processes?

In a recent article in ‘In2: Optimizing Time to Market’ I discuss the four signs that your speed to market isn’t fully optimized. One of the four steps I identified is that many customers I speak to are suffering from the siloed nature of their organizational structure and sometimes their organizational culture too.

This impacts all areas of their business, but for the purpose of this blog post I want to focus on where it all begins – product development.

A wave of digital transformation has taken hold across companies of all types, sizes and geographic origins. Business leaders are committing to adding more efficient digital processes to many parts of their operations, hoping to reap value from the increased agility, accuracy and effectiveness they’re instilling.

There is a notable oversight associated with many of these efforts to create change, however: Not every department is the beneficiary of digital transformation. Some essential functions, including New Product Development  (NPD) are often left behind.


Why Is NPD Left Out?

There is a very strong argument in favor of giving NPD a serious digital transformation. We all recognize innovation delivery through NPD is a key growth enabler for all businesses. Organizations can’t get ahead in competitive markets without strong and appealing new products emerging on time and on budget. This makes NPD the equal of manufacturing, payment systems, financial functionality, employee training methods and customer care – but the latter areas are frequently included in digital transformation strategies, while NPD isn’t.

Why are companies opting to leave their NPD operations as is when other functions are receiving new processes and technology to support. In many cases, inertia may have set in. Leaders have adopted an “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach to NPD, not realizing the operations they have in place are far from optimal. An increase in volume and complexity often needs to be managed by the same resources, using the same solutions without additional support or investment, resulting in a higher cost, longer lead times, risk, non-compliance, duplication, higher employee turnover and reduced client satisfaction.

Current NPD workflows often involve inefficient and sub-optimal tools such as email, ERP extensions, Microsoft Excel or alternative solutions without the functionality NPD teams require. Far from being above improvement, these systems could benefit from major revisions, helping the many members of NPD teams work together more effectively, collaboratively and seamlessly. Until leaders recognize this state of affairs as a problem, however, it’s likely to continue.

Technology tools for NPD use are often managed in the IT department rather than within NPD function itself. When NPD leaders are also influential in digital transformation discussions, they may get assistance & support for their team, but this is relatively rare. Instead, IT is in charge, and may favor going ahead with an existing system. Using email, spreadsheets and other non-specialized components to manage NPD is a potentially lower cost option that looks good on a budget. This relationship must change for companies to make progress in the way they develop new products.


How Can You Digitally Transform Your Processes to Boost Speed to Market?

There are a new generation of business process solutions workflow-improving digital tools that can revolutionize NPD. Leaders simply have to make the connection between new product efficiency and overall value creation. NPD departments provide companies with revenue-generating new concepts to exceed customer trends and demand while grappling with challenges such as regulatory compliance. They are also faced with growing demand for both volume and complexity of new products. Lessening those struggles could revolutionize the way NPD works – at present, an estimated 40% of time goes to administrative work rather than value-creating functions.

An efficiency-building solution, using digital communications to get ideas more smoothly from early concepts to finished products – can deliver real results across the business. Tracking of versions, passing information between employees and managing data effectively are some of the benefits of these solutions, and unlocking them is as simple as taking NPD as seriously as finance, manufacturing, customer service and other commonly transformed functions.

The potential for human error and general confusion is higher when employees are progressing projects and critical activities through email, spreadsheets or ERP add-ons. It can be difficult for stakeholders to collaborate as they trade static versions of documents, rather than making changes that are clearly tracked and immediately visible. Communication beyond the walls of the company may add extra complexity. Even in the best cases, these low-tech collaboration methods are time-consuming. In worst-case scenarios, errors and inaccuracies creep into the NPD process.


Why Implement Smartflow?

A cutting-edge digital artwork solution such as Smartflow is a great addition for NPD teams searching for their digital transformation breakthrough. This system allows teams to manage their briefs and key inputs effectively, and to communicate essential information both within their teams and to external supply chain partners. Companies today often get third parties involved in product and artwork development well before designs are finalized, which means they need effective ways to open communication with these external stakeholders at the right time along the critical path.

Furthermore, time and cost management features, Smartflow empowers leaders to see the status of all their many ongoing projects. When an essential function falls behind schedule or begins to overrun its budget, departments will learn what’s wrong in time to remedy the situation. Proactive attention can prevent functional bottlenecks from forming.

Data is power in the modern enterprise, allowing businesses to manage by fact and prioritize activities that will result in the greatest return and added value for the business. Smartflow offers access to essential information via real-time dashboards and reporting. This is a level of digital-enabled effectiveness that is often seen in functions outside of NPD, and it can be transformative in the quick and efficient creation of new products. Companies that want to get their items on shelves quickly, error free and efficiently should evaluate the benefits Smartflow delivers, leaving spreadsheets and email in the 90s.

You can read my article in full in our In2: Optimizing Time to Market publication that explores how Loftware’s Enterprise Labeling and Artwork Management solutions can help you to optimize your time to market. The publication features contributions from the Loftware team and from one of our customers, Crabtree & Evelyn, who were able to shave four to six weeks from their product launches thanks to Loftware Smartflow.