Research and Development
Before you can plan your future, you must “take stock” of where you are today. For Research and Development, this means you need to be absolutely clear about what it is that you sell. At first thought, this may seem painfully obvious. If you run a law firm, you sell legal services and advice. If you run a software company, you sell computer programs.
If you think back to your marketing perspective, however, you will realize there is more to it than that. Your customers are really in the market for solutions to their needs, not just for your products and services. Your customers buy the entire experience of dealing with your business. They put their hard earned money on the line because they believe the benefits you are offering them are worth the price you are asking, and more. Essentially it comes down to “trust.”
From an operational perspective, this means you are in the solutions business. Your job is to come up with innovative, practical solutions to your customers' needs. This being the case, it is essential that you learn to view your products and services from your customers' perspective.
With this in mind, we'll define your products and/or services from your customers' point of view. A proper definition will answer the question, “what products and services (including features) do I offer that satisfy my customers' needs, and how?” For example, if you own a chain of dry cleaners, perhaps one of the ways you fulfill your customers' need for “more time” is by labelling their garments with a bar code to speed up the drop off procedure. Use your Market Position as your guide. This customer focused strategic tool will help steer you in the right direction. Refer back to the work you inserted into the marketing section of your Business Manual for more information on your customers' needs.
“To get others to do what you want them to do, you must see things through their eyes.”
In the space below, outline your customers' needs, and the current products, services and special features that satisfy them.
“To stay ahead, you must have your next idea waiting in the wings.”
Research and Development System
As we have discussed so many times before, business development is not a one-time activity. It is an evolutionary process that continuously transforms your business into something better. Your Research and Development System will ensure that this holds true for your products and services.
Intel begins developing a new computer processor the moment they introduce their newest model into the market. While their competitors are rushing to play catch-up, Intel is in research and development mode, coming up with something even better. This continuous dedication to the R & D process has kept them at the leading edge of their industry.
Your Research and Development Systems will keep your business on the leading edge of your industry. Resources invested here pay the largest dividends; so don't let it become an after thought. Following are the six major Research and Development Systems.
- Idea generating system — keeps a continuous stream of new ideas flowing into your business.
- Idea screening system — weeds out your weaker ideas and flags your stronger ones.
- Virtual prototype system — offers a more detailed look at your best ideas.
- Actual prototype system — produces a working example of your best ideas.
- Prototype testing system — tests the viability of your best ideas.
- Decision-making system — determines if your company will implement an idea or if it will be put on the back burner.