Pipeline Publishing, Volume 4, Issue 5
This Month's Issue:
Keeping Promises
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NPI for Life: Collaborate for Better Products

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By Barbara Lancaster and Wedge Greene

New Product Introduction (NPI)

Ask engineers and product marketing directors: there is no greater professional satisfaction than guiding a new product from conception through to successful launch. Creating a novel, successful product is often the most rewarding experience in a career. For executives shepherding the process, it provides the unequivocal thrill of accomplishment in a job otherwise often cluttered with politics and compromise. And for two decades now the mantra of survival in telecom is “more new services.” So how come everyone uniformly hates the classic telco New Product Introduction (NPI) process?

We see a lot of marketing around the notion that fielding new services is essential to each service provider’s survival. To a lesser extent we also see this extolled for vendors of equipment and OSS or BSS applications. There is also a lot of hype about various new approaches to assuring rapid and successful new product introductions. “Time to market” is a universal cry. “Innovate or die” is another popular catch phrase, along with “the customer is king,” and the currently popular “customer experience management.”

We all know that “speed to market” does not always equate to “good customer experience.” Speeding up product introduction can introduce significant flaws in the products, or the supporting processes, or the infrastructure systems. These flaws can cause the product to fail. In today’s world of oversight and litigation, product failures cost not just lost revenue and lost market share, they can also bring fines, penalties, and adverse judgments in litigation, and can destroy vendor-buyer partnerships.

We all also know that customers have demonstrated time and time again that speed to the next big thing is not as critical as a product that works as expected. They will wait (at least a little while) for a product that works as promised and is available at a price point they believe provides value for money. Successful NPI is truly about finding that balance between speed and performance.

Many product introductions simply fail. Several studies of product introductions in the last decade of the 20th Century found four out of five failed to furnish the expected positive returns for their company. Almost half of the product introductions actually lost money:

“An ongoing study conducted by PDMA shows that over 40% of product introductions are considered failures. 46% of the money spent by companies on the conception, development, and launch of new products is spent on losers.” [Dave Brock, Partners In EXCELLENCE]

Today, the emphasis on balancing speed and performance is reflected in the shift to “Time to Money” rather than the old “time to market.”


Watching a product you nursed fail is a heart-wrenching experience. And it is no better to be part of what appears to be a successful launch, which upon further analysis is found to actually reduce customer satisfaction. A good example of this was the introduction of performance reporting and utilization measures on data network circuits. High circuit utilization was not a measure important to the customer; it did not necessarily save the customer money or improve their service levels. It didn’t even necessarily save the service provider money, either. Not a success story as launched.

Today, the emphasis on balancing speed and performance is reflected in the shift to “Time to Money” rather than the old “time to market.” This measure looks past product launch to the point in time when the product is actually profitable – when it has sufficient market acceptance and uptake, supported by efficient processes and systems. It also reinforces the concept that product introduction requires participation of the entire company. But more importantly, it acknowledges that failures in marketing or in support can doom an otherwise stellar product.

Recently, a sizable legal settlement went against a telecom vendor who rushed a product to market with significant flaws and further, did not properly support the product as the flaws became evident. This settlement wiped out any success story with adverse consequences on the company’s bottom line. An even more painful example is the impact of WorldCom’s stated goal of bringing novel products to market every three months. This placed enormous pressures on its employees, provided an easy target for Wall Street to criticize, and as a result tempted the executives to take the actions we all now know contributed to a real disaster: 160 Billion dollars in equity gone and the lives of thousands ruined. So heed, this is not just about the best way to, for example, bring

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