Does Your Team Agree On What Is Needed?

Monday, 08 April 2013 06:31
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The starting point for any technology sourcing endeavor is articulation by Marketing of its Business Needs, which are subsequently translated by R&D into Technical Needs. This step makes the technology search mission clear (it should also describe the success criteria). In effect, it should set the stage so that if R&D finds what is sought, Marketing has tacitly agreed to "buy" it from them. However, what happens if the Need is ambiguous, or is subject to multiple interpretations? That, my friends, represents a moving target...which, as we all know, is much, much harder to successfully hit.

One of my consumer products business colleagues recently recounted a story about such an incident: the Business Need was to identify a solution to reduce the appearance of cellulite. R&D interpreted this to mean that it needed to identify a topical treatment that would firm skin and make cellulite less visible. R&D returned with a clinically effective preparation that dramatically firmed and toned skin. However, Marketing rejected it, claiming that it actually wanted a material that would measurably reduce circumference, something the found technology did not do.

It wasn't clear to me from this account whether Marketing had shifted its expectations, was not sufficiently clear about them in the first place, or if R&D had improperly interpreted them. Regardless, this disconnect resulted in significant wasted effort and time and created enormous collective frustration. By the way, because the company didn't take action on the very promising technology opportunity that was scouted, it wound up being taken to market by a nimbler competitor.

The implication from this example is clear: Marketing and R&D must work to ensure complete and unambiguous communication of the Business Needs and their translation to Technology Needs. Specifically, Marketing must explicitly confirm its acceptance of the resulting translation to ensure alignment before any technology search mission can commence. This discussion should include the basis for the Needs and the types of marketing opportunities and claims that a winning solution would support.

Connect and Develop Follow-Up

I recently spoke with Lisa Popyk, P&G's External Communications liaison regarding their new Connect and Develop online initiatives (discussed here two weeks ago). In brief, she confirmed that beyond refreshing their site for ease of use, inbound technical submissions would reach business teams directly for their review, without necessarily being filtered first by additional technical go-betweens. She also explained that P&G's co-creation channels were designed primarily to provide an outlet for individuals who wish to share ideas with P&G and to enable the Company to interact with them. This initiative represents an expansion of similar, earlier effort undertaken by P&G in China.

Thank you Lisa, for helping to further build my (and our readers') understanding of these encouraging steps.

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