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5 Questions You Should Ask Before Starting NPI (New Product Introduction)

Imagine for a second that you work as a product manager for Hexlaw Enterprises, one of those mysterious and probably evil corporations you see in movies. The company you work for is deeply involved in government and defense contracts, with an entire wing dedicated to some top-secret technology protected by guards that seem more than happy to operate entirely outside of the law. You’re pretty sure you’ve seen the CIA director passing through, speaking quietly about messages “from the other side,” and it’s not strange for an entire part of the facility to shut down due to an "unforeseen circumstance."

Still, you’re there as a product manager who needs to lead some high-powered, space-time-warping radio transmitters through new product introduction (NPI), and you have more important things to worry about. Luckily, amid all the complexity and bizarre accidents on the other side of the facility, there are some basic questions that you can ask to get yourself off on the right foot.

Who is going to be involved?

In an ideal world, this is most everyone at the organization, from C-suite to engineering to sales and marketing, because they all have important stakes in the success of a new product. C-suite should be asking about revenue projections (more on that in a moment), while operations needs to think about how to manage the supply chain while reducing costs throughout. Sales might want to think about compliance (even though your company rarely has these concerns), and the number of SKUs that might need to be created to accommodate the new product. Your engineering team should be thinking about the NPI process itself, how to create part numbers, testing equipment, and more. The all-hands-on-deck approach, difficult as it might be to establish, has lasting positive effects on the NPI process.

What are the sales/revenue projections for this product?

As mentioned, this might be more of a discussion for the C-suite players, but either way, you should have a part in forming the discussion, ensuring that it happens, and then collecting any data from the process after the fact. If you are more involved, you should be converting that information into deliverables that can not only be used to move through one gate and into the next stage, but also be used to later track the success (or failure) of the product.

What will we need (budget, people) to make this happen?

This is another question that might need to involve the C-suite, but one that can begin with you and your team. Because you should have some existing workflows to base this NPI process from, in addition to some tested task management strategies, you should be able to at least estimate the amount of capacity and overhead a project like this will take. It doesn’t have to be exact, but it should be based on a foundation of real evidence:

- Are there existing products, resources, and tools that can make NPI easier?
- Are there government regulations that need to be considered?
- Can operations people give insights into any supply chain complexities?

This process can be made much easier with the integration of various software systems, such as the product lifecycle management (PLM) system Hexlaw Enterprises has invested in, to gather cost information from a bill of materials (BOM) or directly from a CAD file.

What tools should we use to make this happen?

You have any number of on-premise or cloud-based tools available to you - Excel spreadsheets for cataloging information and Google Docs for collaborating on written deliverables might seem tempting, but they create many disparate silos of information that can’t be referenced when most needed.

The only real way to get this kind of full visibility is with tools build particularly for an NPI process—all the better if they integrate with the wider PLM offering.

How do I get more from this process?

Ideally, you can access some of your past NPI processes through the PLM system, and see where members of the team performed well, and where they could use improvement. Where did delays occur? What roadblocks cropped up that needed sudden pivoting?

Even at Hexlaw Enterprises where a Jason Bourne character could come storming through the front doors, you still need a way to launch new products and improve how you do so.