3 Areas to Focus On To Successfully Launch New Product or Service

Portfolio vitality is required if a company is going to ensure future performance and survival. This is achieved through the continual launch of new products and services to the customer. Some organization are referring to a combination of products and services as solutions or offerings. I will use all of these terms interchangeably in this post.

As someone whose domain expertise lies between the idea and launch of a new product, I am frequently asked what the most important things to do when attempting to increase portfolio vitality. There are three areas that organizations of any size need to consider: the new product must fix a pain point, it must be repeatedly available on demand & you must be able tell and deliver it to the customer. Project teams are crucial to addressing these areas. Each area needs a representative on the team. That representative is responsible for their area being successfully done.

The first is fixing a pain point. This requires a deep understanding of what the end customer actually needs. Without giving the customer a differentiated product from what already exists, there is no reason for them to switch. Launching something to the market just because it does something cool doesn’t ensure success. In fact, the biggest mistake in new product development is creating something nobody wants

Take a look at Apple Watch. It hasn’t enjoyed widespread adoption, even after two years and two generations of being in the market. A small percentage of people own one. Why? The price is high, the capabilities are mediocre and it requires a paired iPhone. Apple had its chance but lost out with the proliferation of smart fitness trackers that more closely provided what customers wanted. In order to win, you have to address a pain point.

Understanding the pain points is just the beginning. You have to have a development team that can translate those needs into a workable form. This usually starts with a design that leads to a prototype. It needs to be rigorously tested and then a finalized design completed for launch. The final product is ultimately what must fix the pain point(s). The design inevitably gets watered down with trade-off related to cost, technology readiness, and other areas. Don’t lose the focus on fixing pain points when getting to the final design.

It’s not enough to have a final service ready, the second area for a successful launch is needed. An organization must be able to repeatedly provide that service to the customer. Customers are not very forgiving when they go to purchase your service and it isn’t available. Only in rare cases the customer will be patient. Depending on the ratio of the value added to the wait required, the customer will likely move to a competitor. Your organization must be able to provide your services at the rate of customer demand.

Each unit provided should be defect free, matching the design intent. Two popular methodologies for repeatedly providing defect-free are lean and six sigma. Lean is the industry best practice for establishing waste-free operations, minimizing cost of production. Six sigma focuses on reducing variation to the lowest possible level. A disciplined approach using these principles will ensure the organization meets repeatable provision to the customer.

The last area is that the new offering must get to the customer. This includes the trigger and delivery. Proper advertising and fulfillment after an “order” is placed leads to strong revenue and growth. The better presentation to the intended customer, the more demand will be. The shorter the wait, the happier the customer will be. Marketing in the social media age has its own rules now and the shift in retail due to the Amazon effect has reset the playing field. Companies must keep up with what the leaders in their market are doing.

Each of these areas are critical to launching a new solution to the market. Get one right, you have one right. That doesn’t mean you’ll win. You need more than a great offering. You need all three for a successful launch: fix those pain points, make it available when ordered and be able to get it to the customer. That will win and that will lead to portfolio vitality and the future success of your firm.

Adam’s Writes His HIMSS Part 2 Report


On the first day of HIMSS 2017 I stayed in our booth, so Day Two was my day to venture out. Where do I even start? The HIMSS community has literally taken over the area around the Orange County Convention Center. There are product launches, awards ceremonies, and press interviews galore. The twitter-verse is overflowing with #HIMSS17 and other associated tweets. I’m particularly amazed how every hotel, restaurant, Wi-Fi hotspot, pedi-cab, and Uber is crawling with formal and impromptu meetings between attendees and exhibitors.

I decided to take advantage of the hoopla and joined the #HCLDR meetup in the Hall D lobby. It was there I was approached by Nick Adkins, a kilt-wearing, healthcare MBA who welcomed me into the #pinksocks tribe by presenting me with a mustached-pair of pink socks.

The socks are intended to be a conversation starter. “It’s easy for us to get caught up with technology and get stuck behind a screen,” Nick said. “Sometimes we need to be reminded to talk face-to-face and show empathy looking into the actual eyes of another human.”

For me, that was the theme I pulled away on Day Two. The HIMSS show floor is filled with vendors that all claim to be “doing” population health, value based care, and data security. On the surface, there is little to no differentiation between vendors.

As a developer who believes deeply in ethnographically-based solutions, I have to ask, “Where is the human value of the product or service?” While my design engineering background gets excited about technical solutions and my business background relishes in financial implication, it’s my humanness that begs there be more than technology and net margin.

One attendee told me, “What I want [from AI] is the ability to talk with the patient and have AI listening to the conversation and [cognitively] pop up suggestions based on what we’re talking about.” That could be a game changer for doctors, but what about the nursing staff, care coordinators, coders, IT staff, and other front line staff?

Healthcare organizations need to be strategic about their technology investments. They can’t assume that purchasing one more software packages or devices will result in successful implementation and achievement of the IHI Triple Aim – improved quality outcomes, improved patient experience, and an overall reduction in the cost of care.

Too often, organizations inject new technologies before understanding the overall impact on the continuum of care. So, how can organizations successfully implement new technologies?

They can’t count on a vendor to know all of this information. At Simpler®, we believe healthcare systems need to orchestrate clear plans that take into consideration all systems that contribute to quality patient care. These plans are rooted in deep customer insights and bounded by properly set operational constraints. To develop and implement a new solution, healthcare systems need to determine what is important to their patients, what would help them run the business better, and what would position them for the competitive edge.

This brings me back to the #pinksocks. Every healthcare system feels compelled to differentiate themselves in this competitive market. While outfitting a healthcare system in pink socks won’t do the trick, a customer-first, development technique like Simpler’s can distinguish organizations from the sea of others. By optimizing work flows around the patient, clinicians, information, equipment, and quality, organizations can introduce winning, new services that set themselves apart. Thank you HIMSS.

You can find out more on how Simpler® is successfully guiding Lean transformation in the healthcare sector here: http://www.simpler.com/p/healthcare

This blog was also published on www.simpler.com.


Adam’s Composes His HIMSS Part 1 Report

I’ve arrived in beautiful Orlando, Florida for the largest healthcare IT conference, HIMSS 2017. As an innovator, technology enthusiast and veteran of healthcare tradeshows, I was excited to finally get the opportunity to see and hear first-hand from some of the best and brightest thought leaders and innovators in our industry on how technology will impact healthcare in the year to come.

As eager as I was to meet some of the 40,000+ health IT professionals, executives and vendors exhibiting at the show, I was particularly excited to attend the inaugural keynote session.

This year’s opening keynote address for HIMSS was delivered by Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO of Simpler’s parent company, IBM. Rometty kicked off the conference by delivering a well-received speech on healthcare and the cognitive era. She discussed how cognitive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, are poised to profoundly impact medicine and value-based care, emphasizing that the healthcare industry needs to embrace and guide new technologies into the world in an ethical and enduring way.

Rometty also shared her concern over the fact that many healthcare organizations and leaders struggle to imagine the future. This point hit close to home as I’ve found that many of my clients aren’t putting enough thought into the future. Rometty’s remarks support my firm belief that healthcare delivery firms need to get serious about internal innovation to further support and bolster the outcome of patient care. They also must produce new and improved models of care for both patients and the healthcare system employees in preparation of the future, and that it is done in a strategic manner.

After a brilliant HIMSS keynote session, it was time to hit the exhibition hall floor. I was assigned to work the corporate booth for the bulk of the day to share Simpler’s vast array of offerings and discuss how Simpler, Truven, and Phytel & Explorys are contributing to the IBM Watson brand. It was great to meet so many fascinating people with interesting problems in their healthcare system.

As day one of the conference wound down, I found myself reflecting on the day’s events. Here are my takeaways:

  • We have to address innovations that reduce physician administrative burden, not increase it. Simpler Senior Advisor, Dr. Paul DeChant, gave a talk on his new book, “Preventing Physician Burnout: Curing the Chaos and Returning Joy to the Practice of Medicine, A Handbook for Physicians and Health Care Leaders,” which specifically addresses this topic. DeChant shared how new innovations, processes and fixes should reduce the barriers and frustrations care givers encounter every day.
  • With so much uncertainty, healthcare organizations need to be even more flexible. To be effective for any period of time, healthcare organizations need to create adaptable environments that value continuous improvement, and don’t flinch at the notion of change. The Lean management model hardwires that adaptability. The ability to rapidly adapt to a changing environment is a critically important strategic advantage in this era of rapid and unpredictable change.

I’m looking forward to digging a little deeper in my next post.

Brainstorm Recommendation: Don’t Use a Group

Virtually every week of the year I have a group of employees in a room all working on a task: to redefine what they’re doing today by painting a picture of what they could be doing tomorrow. Due to the limited time together, teams try to get as much done as possible. The exercise I hate leading the most is the group brainstorm. Why? 1) Because most people can’t do it and 2) The team wants to finish the tactical part right afterward.

Great ideas can’t be forced. Great ideas don’t have a single iteration. They aren’t instant. Great ideas don’t come from everybody. So why do we expect good results from short brainstorming exercises? Because you can get some pretty good ideas. They may not be game changers but most can be run with immediately. They don’t take a lot of feasibility or work to implement. Good is good enough.

It actually works okay for average to slightly-above average teams. You can survive and even have a small win every now and then. You won’t be a pioneer. You won’t achieve real breakthrough. The following example may seem simplistic, but it’s the essence of what I see work really well in the work world too.

Fifteen years ago I worked with a group of ten teenagers as a director for a musical dance routine. They would first compete at the state level and if did well enough would go to the national level. We had done it the previous two years before with limited success. The first year we somehow made it to nationals but didn’t do well there. The second year we didn’t make it to nationals. This third year I didn’t want to do it. It’s a lot of work and a lot of responsibility rests on the director, especially with a bunch of teens.

Here is what I did: I gave them the picture of what we wanted, what we were looking for and what we could achieve, and then gave them the reins. Of the ten members, one’s creativity stood out. (It’s no wonder he is in a creative field as a fashion videographer now) He came up with an unexpected accompaniment song. The theme flowed naturally from there. I had a couple of ideas for key “wow” moments during performance. That guy always pushed it to the next level. During our preparation for competition he constantly added new ideas. We built off each other, adding one great element after another as the team rehearsed it.

The team dominated at the state level, easily taking first place. Before nationals the routine was further enhanced. In the end, they placed fourth in the nation, a far cry better than anything in the past. The whole group had to execute flawlessly, but I attribute the key creative aspects to just two people, myself as the director and that one member. We did things no one had imagined before, feeding ideas from each other. It took time and it took building from one initial idea.

I have found that group brainstorm activities almost always hinders excellent ideas. The truly great ones get shot down by the self-identified realists. Realists are needed but not at the creative, imagination points. My advice: take them out and add them later. Also, don’t expect greatness from a single session. Iteration is critical. One impossible, crazy idea can loop around and around until a legitimate, amazing idea comes out. Give the creatives some space and time.

The next time you gather a group of employees in a room to brainstorm, remember these examples. If you’re after average or slightly-above average, go ahead with the group over a specified time. If, however, you want a game changing idea, isolate the creatives and give the idea some time to percolate.

Stop Asking Your Employees to be Creative

In my early days of studying leadership, one of the most rewarding yet most unsettling things I heard was “work in your strengths.” Leadership guru John Maxwell hammered that concept home time and time again in his books. Being creative is one of those areas. Before my exposure to leadership teaching, I felt I was always taught to work on my weaknesses. I can think way back to when I was and being graded. Penmanship was a subject when I was in school. We were taught first to print and then later to write cursive. My cursive was terrible. No matter how hard I tried, I would never get a good grade.

For years, it was the only class that I never earned an A, yet I stressed about it the most. Ditto for English in high school. Classes that required math or memorization however, I excelled in. I preferred science topics the most as they combined the two in the most intriguing way to me. I played with Legos, built forts in the yard and in the woods and owned a telescope. If an activity or assignment required organization or involved teeny-tiny details, I wanted nothing to do with it. What if I had become an English teacher or a font creator? It probably would have been disastrous. Today, since almost all communication is typed, cursive is obsolete and misspelling is almost impossible (unless you use Siri). Fortunately, I followed what I enjoyed and became an engineer.

However, my weaknesses still nagged me and every performance review hammered the weaknesses home. I fretted and stressed about those weaknesses until I studied leadership in my late 20s. Suddenly I didn’t worry about my weaknesses anymore. I focused purely on my strengths and had people beside me who loved and excelled at the things I did poorly. They were fulfilled and so was I. Together teams I led tackled impossible projects. My career took a new trajectory and I loved it. I felt great. Being saddled with having to fix things or try things that I was weak in was paralyzing. That’s why I cringe when I see articles and posts with tips and tricks on how to “help your employees be more creative.” Not everyone is naturally creative. Sure, each person has some creativity, but you want the people who thrive on creativity. Most people could scrawl a circle with a stick body and represent a person, but some people can create photo-realistic images of people.

When it comes to thinking about new ways to do things, the goal shouldn’t be to make all employees innovative; the goal should be to put innovative employees in positions that define the future. If you’re looking for people for improvement projects, don’t expect all employees think creatively, instead use creative employees on projects that love that type of thinking. Look for the people that think divergently to come up with solutions. Use the convergent thinkers to get the job done. And please, please, don’t ever try to get your entire organization to think creatively, you may just be reminding too many people about that elementary penmanship class.

Ask Questions Like a Child

A couple of months ago, my youngest was back from college on her winter break. As a sophomore, she is deep into the learning cycle. We were out spending time together one day and she was probing my knowledge on a work-related topic with one question after another. I was engaging in a meaningful conversation that was transferring knowledge without me thinking about it.

Suddenly, she said to me “I’m sorry, am I asking too many questions?”  That thought had literally not crossed my mind. Every day that I’m with clients, I get question after question so it didn’t seem that weird to me. What was it that made my daughter say that? I reflected on that and realized that it’s quite different having a five-year-old and a nearly 20-year-old. we expect 5-year-olds to ask questions like “why is the sky blue?” Apparently there was some stigma, that as an adult she couldn’t ask a series of questions in a row. I told her that she absolutely wasn’t and to never stop asking questions. I told her to ask as many as you need to. I think others struggle with this too.

You can’t extract wisdom from experts in their field without asking big, tough Qs. As a teacher and adviser on innovation and its process, people are always asking me things as if they are lawyers trying to get me to prove something; however, very rarely are they asking meaningful questions like my daughter was asking that day.  I have a great explanation most of the time. I don’t always and when I don’t, I say so.

Organizations that ask the right set of questions gain significant experience and insight into innovation and receive a corresponding cultural benefit to their organization. Ones that ask no questions or the wrong type of questions remain stuck, unwilling to learn. Innovation demands this curiosity. Take advantage of subject matter experts. Ask deep, probing questions. Really want to learn. Don’t act like you know it all, you don’t. Asking them arms you with an competitive advantage and consent you and your organization apart. And like my daughter moving forward, never apologize for asking too many.