In today’s competitive environment of rapidly shifting consumer tastes, businesses need to be able to move quickly to capture market share and retain customers. For both B2B and B2C organizations, speed-to-market can have a significant impact. Addressing inefficiencies throughout the product management lifecycle – from innovation to production – can provide a competitive advantage. This is true even if it is only feasible to make incremental improvements.
As part of our ongoing series on SharePoint Line of Business Applications, we’re looking at two of our recent projects – one where only a portion of the lifecycle was addressed, and one that drastically improved the end-to-end process. As we noted in our post on the ROI benefits of SharePoint Line of Business Applications, SharePoint can be a powerful tool to improve product management efficiency, either as a standalone solution or integrated into an enterprise LOB application.
Our client, a consumer packaged goods company in the food and beverage vertical, sought to improve their innovation process – managed mostly by spreadsheets on individual computers and over email or phone. Leadership had little visibility to the number of projects in the innovation queue, or the status of those projects. Further, the innovation process itself had issues that required lots of cycling between key personnel to ensure all the right information was available and to keep the product/idea moving to formal approval.
Using SharePoint, we set up a product approval process to ensure the right information was in place before a project could move from one stage to another, eliminating inefficiencies. Additionally, we added features that provided reminders and escalations if items were not moving through the process within a predetermined timeframe. Management could see the progress of each individual item, as well as reports on key metrics.
This system provided a framework to quickly identify opportunities and eliminate redundancies in the product lifecycle – significantly decreasing the time spent taking a product from an idea to the shelf. In total, they were able to reduce some process times by as much as 90%, and the overall approval process by 50%.
Our next client, a producer of custom cups with customer logos and artwork, wanted to expand their market to include smaller industry players, while at the same time decreasing standard turnaround time by more than 75%. Their existing process involved an inefficient design approval process, tedious production setup, and manual cost approvals.
We implemented a solution that leveraged state-of-the-art visualization tools, giving their sales force the ability to demonstrate what a finished product would look like – including the client’s artwork – so that approvals could be obtained on the spot. This eliminated the back and forth previously required to approve designs. In addition, we developed the backend workflow associated with approvals, feeding into the company’s SAP system to set up and schedule the production of custom cups. To eliminate inefficiencies due to bad data, the system also validated data throughout the process.
This effort led to significant gains in speed to delivery – for example, the interval between order placement and approval of production set-up was reduced from weeks to less than 5 minutes. Such improvements in time from order placement to final delivery allowed them to expand their product offerings to organizations requiring a more agile partner.
By implementing smart technologies to improve manual, inefficient processes, each of these organizations saw significant improvements in their speed to market, ultimately leading to a better product offering and capitalization of the market.