Fast-growing companies know just how crucial it is to keep a close eye on the various teams, tasks, and timelines involved in bringing a product to market
Companies are implementing well-defined and standardized new product introduction processes that expedite product launches by aligning departments, tracking action items, and keeping the entire team adequately and accurately informed of project status and updates.
However, following a complicated introduction process can be equally as frustrating, intimidating, and byzantine as launching without a formalized process.
Lack of project ownership, disjointed or incomplete communication, untracked deliverables, and inconsistency in the project monitoring tools used by each department can all create roadblocks that unnecessarily delay market entry.
Keeping the entire product team on the same page throughout the commercialization process is of paramount importance if cost, quality, and scheduling goals are to be met.
Implementing a simple, unified, and automated platform to track the process and streamline communication can eliminate waste, maintain accountability, meet compliance challenges, and monitor the status of and responsibility for deliverables, keeping the project aligned with targeted launch and revenue recognition goals.
But adding a comprehensive information management system to product launch budgets may be challenging to justify without a clear understanding of exactly what return on investment — both financial and procedural — can be achieved.
An effective information management system can be a lifeline, the figurative flotation device that lifts a company out of choppy and unpredictable waters and onto a solid foundation that supports future growth.
Choosing the right system requires planning and a clear understanding of what drives the business — and what gets in the way of success — so defining the key performance metrics is the first step toward adopting a platform that will truly streamline processes.
Identifying business drivers is not as simple as it may seem at first, as due consideration must be given to all the indicators used to measure success, other than achieving revenue goals. Is breadth of portfolio an important metric?
Does business success rely more on total volume sold, or is market share the primary driver? Or maybe success is measured by the niche(s) the product can fill, and therefore identifying new uses for the product is a driver that needs to be tracked and graphed?
Digging deep and defining precisely what the key performance indicators are will help determine the appropriate project metrics to track, which in turn will help isolate the problems that need to be addressed.
For instance, if a key performance indicator for a company is breadth of portfolio, then an information management system should be able to visualize those products that are a top priority, and which are less so based on the forecasted annual volume.
This can help identify opportunities for reallocation of resources to ensure that the higher-volume products are launched on time and with all the regulatory and compliance requirements met.
If a key performance indicator for a company is breadth of portfolio, then an information management system should be able to visualize those products that are a top priority
Likewise, if a company wants to monitor the number of products launched per year or per quarter, the right information management system can graph the status of each project so that roadblocks can be easily identified, resources allocated, and timelines adjusted if necessary.
The major roadblocks in the product launch process are universal, with proven consistency across organizations, products, manufacturers, and vendors.
While the list of roadblocks and issues can vary somewhat from project to project, there are some impediments that more often than not appear on every project manager’s checklist:
A roadblock or two can usually be resolved easily within a department, but three or more unresolved issues across the organization can sound the death knell for a product launch timeline. Without an automated system to organize and track workflows, companies may rely on outdated recording methods such as excel spreadsheets and hand-written meeting minutes to monitor project status.
These methods provide limited transparency and flexibility, may not accurately capture all concerns, and can make it difficult for external stakeholders to effectively participate in the launch process.
Even the most dedicated project manager will struggle to maintain a clear understanding of project status when reliant on manual methods to record updates, challenges, and concerns that arise along the way.
On the other hand, an effective information management system can resolve these issues by improving visibility, accountability, and clarifying the entire concept-to-commercialization process. By employing an established project management tool known as phase (or stage) gating, a functional management platform can streamline communication and improve workflows by monitoring the tasks to be completed, the deliverables to be assigned, the appropriate reports generated and stored, the questions to be answered, and milestones achieved in order to move a project forward to completion.
Each phase has a clearly defined set of prerequisites to be completed before the project moves to the next phase. Of course, the reality of the product launch process is often variable and fluid, with tasks from multiple stages in progress at any one time, but an automated management platform provides a simpler way to monitor gating to ensure that all the key project milestones are achieved on time.
There will be some variation in the naming of the phases, depending on the product and the organization, but the cosmetic product introduction process usually has five distinct phases. The tasks noted below are representative of just a few of the prerequisites necessary for moving from gate to gate:
There can also be multiple gating monitors, with their own phase definitions, tracking various sub-sectors of the project. For example, the research and development team may require their own phase gates to track the development of the project brief and raw material qualification needs of a new product.
Marketing may have their own defined sub-gates to keep the creation of positioning statements, branding, messaging, and sales collateral on schedule, and document control may have separate gating to ensure that all documentation is completed and aligned with global regulatory requirements prior to launch.
By isolating recurring roadblocks and highlighting the deliverables and milestones that are required to move a project forward on schedule, phase gating as part of an automated information management system can help companies eliminate barriers to success and become proficient at launching products on time.
Once the success indicators, performance metrics, and common bottlenecks in the existing product launch process have been determined, it is time to find — and customize — an information management system that can accommodate the needs of the organization. But tracking processes, deliverables, and timelines is often not enough to justify the expense and time required to implement an information management system.
A truly effective and worthwhile platform must also combine efficient compliance reporting, real-time access, and data mining capabilities with a user-friendly interface that can be seamlessly instituted across departments.
The Ithos Information Network is a proprietary, web-based information management system that uses phase gating to visualize workflow across departments, vendors, and suppliers and pinpoint where delays occur.
The tasks and milestones required at each stage are detailed and visible to all project participants, and accountability for deliverables is easily monitored. With visual dashboards, electronic workflow monitoring, and other tools to promote efficiency and project transparency, the launch process can flow naturally, unimpeded by unanswered questions, incomplete documentation, and missed deadlines.
Managing compliance is easy with improved access to data, documents, and a centralized repository of regulatory and compliance knowledge, documentation, and supplier and/or manufacturer information that can then be mined for use with future projects.
In addition, the Ithos Global solution decreases the risk of non-compliant formula ingredients, insufficient safety assessments, and challenges with suppliers. Product development teams can upload a list of proposed product ingredients into the database to be screened for alignment with regulatory requirements.
Traceability of supplier documentation can be verified, product formulations secured, safety content managed, and generation of regulatory documentation simplified with the Ithos Information Network.
The Ithos Global solution goes even further, expanding customer value by bringing all the features together into a strategic and centralized information repository that can then be used to organize client data with dashboard views. Critical documents such as Safety Data Sheets can also be created and maintained by the Ithos Global team upon request, then stored and/or distributed to customer websites.
Complete client content, product lifecycle, document management, and integration services are an option with the Ithos Information Network.
Once the platform is implemented and customized, discovery and data mining become a seamless part of the new product introduction process, with real-time access to a library of global ingredient safety and regulatory studies and reports.
Integration of supplier data and product formulations automate the process of complying with local and global regulations, saving valuable time and eliminating the need for additional third-party consultants.
This web-based platform is secure, easy to use, and supported by a knowledgeable and cross-functional internal Ithos Global team to assist before, during, and after the system is implemented.
Flexibility, customization, reporting, and transparency should be key features for any information management platform being considered for adoption.
A platform like the Ithos Information Network (IIN) brings all the pieces together to provide a full-service compliance solution for tracking new product introduction metrics, visualizing workflows across departments, and pinpointing where delays occur.
The investment rapidly pays for itself by making the product launch process cleaner and faster and allowing more products to be brought to market more quickly, ensuring that all organizational business goals and metrics are met.