It doesn’t matter how skilled your sales team is or how efficient your operation runs; you’re just not going to climb to the top without winning products.

But creating successful products is not easy, especially for high-tech capital equipment companies.

Why It’s so Hard for CapEquips

1. It can take years to develop a new product.

You’re going to have to finish that MRS and launch the development program before your customers are even sure they know what they need.  It’s almost guaranteed that the product requirements will change, or your competitor will pull an unexpected move before you’re done.  As a result, the product definition evolves in response to a shifting market environment throughout the development program.

2. High-tech capital equipment is very complex.

Often fundamental physics, materials science and chemistry must come together in a package of sophisticated control and mechanical systems.  Products can have dozens of subsystems and thousands of parts. Getting all these components to work together is difficult, and they almost never work perfectly the first time.

3. The development teams are complex.

It takes large cross functional teams to successfully develop and introduce a new product.  Scientists, engineers, marketeers, suppliers and more all have to work together.  Just to add another layer of complexity, these teams may also be geographically dispersed. It’s easy for entropy to prevail.

4. Everyone wants to be special.

Capital equipment customers often use your gear to deliver their unique value. So it’s not surprising that they also want their equipment to be unique. This generates requirements for custom features, which in turn leads to complexities in product structure, configuration management, pricing, and after sales support.

5. Great product managers don’t just drop out of the sky.

The complexities of managing high-tech capital equipment products set the qualification bar pretty high for the product manager. The really good ones are adept at working through technical, marketing, sales, customer support and business issues.  They understand the market, the technology, and the product. On top of all that, they also have to be great leaders.  These are rare and talented individuals.

And as if this isn’t hard enough, when you finally do find the great ones, they quickly become the organization’s “go to” product expert.  Everybody wants a piece of them for engineering, sales and service support, leaving them little time for actual product management.

Make Product Management a Core Competency

Making great capital equipment products is hard, but not impossible.

However, to be successful, you have to make a conscious decision to fully embrace product management as a formal discipline for planning, developing and marketing products.

The challenge is just too difficult and the task too complex to try and address in a casual way.  If you want to get serious about consistently creating great products, then you must take these four key steps to develop your company’s product management core competency:

  • Develop first rate product managers who are influential members of the management team and have clearly defined roles.
  • Plan products via formal strategic planning, market requirements development, and product roadmap construction
  • Adopt and follow a product lifecycle management process.
  • Implement robust management controls to track and ensure product line performance.

Product management is everything from the planning, development, marketing, and support of a product. It’s the systematic business process for making the right products, the right way, at the right time.

There are no shortcuts.  Without great products, you’re not going to build a great, sustainable capital equipment business.  And without robust product management, you’re not going to consistently create great products