Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment. — “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.
Alignment can be misunderstood term in the lexicon of business. It need not be. The meaning is really quite clear. When it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of a new product launch, alignment means every part of your company and every aspect of its operations are working in harmony toward making the new product a hit.
The number one trap that derails many product launches is the failure to proactively get all stakeholders involved, aligned, and on the same page. Because think about it: the heartbeat of any new product centers on addressing a pain point of the customer. Addressing this pain point naturally connects to revenue, profitability, product design, productivity, corporate image, workforce issues … and pretty much every other business goal.
Align your product launch process with every strategic business goal and every department and division within your company.
The fact is, a successful product launch is in alignment with every strategic business goal across the company. Done right, a company has drilled down into the customer experience, capturing hard-won insights and data that impact every aspect of how it operates.
In your own launch make sure launch goals between departments are not misaligned, which reduces the chances that employees in either department can achieve their goals. Take, for example, one company where a new product failed. Leaders thought the problem was either poor delivery times or lack of effort by the sales force. After throwing a ton of resources at the problem, they realized the issue suffered from misaligned goals. The product was priced to grow market share while sales force compensation was structured on profit margin. The sales force had no extra incentive to sell the new product because selling other, higher-margin products aligned with their goals.
More Snags to Avoid
Another trap is adhering to strict organizational boundaries. Achieving alignment requires teamwork between all levels, functions, divisions, and departments. Breaking down barriers between silos paves the way for interactive problem-solving and innovation. It also helps ensure that parts of an organization don’t work at odds with each other. Failure to create and maintain cross-functional alignment helps teams avoid the invisible trap of hunkering back into their own silos without strong connectivity to others.
In addition to alignment, cross-functional collaboration is important. First, it enables the knowledge that each team gains to spread throughout the process. It is how your product team learns what customers like in the product now and what updates they would like to see. And it is how sales gets a better grasp on your product’s competitive advantage and how to position it with prospective leads.
Be especially sensitive to different departments using different software products. In many organizations each department depends on a particular product to help them do their jobs effectively. But often these tools don’t connect to each other in a meaningful way. They can exacerbate silos, especially if each department is accessing data that tells only part of the story.
Finally, lay meticulous plans for e-commerce. A SiriusDecisions poll of 300 sales leaders found a widespread belief that the top one-third of the sales cycle has gone away — that the beginning of the traditional sales process has evaporated because buyers are self-servicing their shopping online instead of engaging with salespeople.
The sales funnel is more complex than ever today. By some estimates, marketing is responsible for delivering roughly 75% of the buyer journey; sales is responsible for delivering the remaining 25%. What your company says, to whom you say it, how you say it, and when you say it, makes the difference between hitting revenue goals or missing them. That’s why alignment among every moving part is essential.
There are few things worse in life than to launch your new best thing into a wicked mix of poor quality, low reliability, and difficult delivery issues. And yet it happens. So, beware; these things can do irreparable harm to your launch and open the door to failure.
At Forward Vision, our experts use the “Start Right – Finish Well” launch management process as a proven methodology to give new products the lift they need. Watch our webinar to learn more.