A client recently approached me about its newly acquired business unit. There was the potential to expand sales with some existing clients via new software, product, and service offerings that would satisfy an emerging niche area. This created a huge opportunity to deploy the concept globally, but company leaders weren’t sure the solutions could be scaled. Professionals knew what they wanted to offer, but they did not know how to bring a significant innovation to the marketplace. They also worried about the competitive landscape, whether prospective client firms would see value in their offerings, and how to support growth and fulfil their promises.
Determining the forecast of volumes and the geographical delivery points for fulfillment would enable this firm to begin defining the optimal supply chain design. But decision makers were not ready to provide that information. They still struggled to determine which markets to sell into, what configurations of software and hardware they would provide, the delivery model, and what share level of the market they wanted to reach. Clearly, with all of these questions, business leaders had to zero in on the software, hardware, and network offerings that would give customers what they need and provide it profitably and sustainably as volumes increased.
Happily, lean six sigma (LSS) offered several useful tools. Quality function deployment is defined by the APICS Dictionary, 15th edition, as “a methodology designed to ensure that all the major requirements of the customer are identified and subsequently met or exceeded through the resulting product design process and the design and operation of the supporting production management system.” The definition also notes that quality function deployment uses the voice of the customer to help eliminate the gap between what consumers want in a new product and what that product is capable of delivering.
After performing quality function deployment, my client made a competitive assessment of the important features in order to identify where the company had advantage, parity, or trailing capabilities. The breakdown included software functionality; ease of integration of physical interfaces; the preferred delivery model; and the measurable impact to operating performance for speed, quality, and cost that would define the necessary return on investment to justify the effort.
Another useful LSS tool, the Kano model, next came into play. The Kano model is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction that classifies customer preferences into five categories: must-be quality, one-dimensional quality, attractive quality, indifferent quality, and reverse quality. For example: Asking a potential car buyer, “How do you feel about the relative importance of windshield wipers,” likely would reveal that consumers believe windshield wipers are expected—in other words, must-be quality.
A starter list of questions was compiled for the client’s target customers to determine if a feature was necessary, unique, and exciting or something that they felt indifferent about. Each of the responses was assigned a degree of opinion on a scale and illustrated numerically so that analysis could be performed.
It then was time to consider any unmet needs, particularly those that potential customers didn’t even know they needed. Obviously, capturing information that may have nothing to do with existing products and services is tricky. These unmet and undiscovered needs also require a list of questions, such as, “With respect to the functions affected by this potential product or service, what are your three biggest headaches or frustrations?” Careful listening is imperative when trying to identify customer pain points that can be developed into future offerings.
In an iterative fashion, the team completed a full list of possible offerings, followed by a comprehensive effort to determine the true nature of the opportunity. The results, as well as information about how the Supply Chain Operations Reference model framework helped define the best possible go-to-market strategy, will be revealed in the next “Lean Culture.”
Ron Crabtree, CIRM, SCOR-P, MLSSBB, is chief executive officer of MetaOps, a master MetaExpert, and an organizational transformation architect. He is the author or coauthor of five books about operational excellence and the online magazine at MetaOpsMagazine.com. Crabtree also teaches, presents, and consults. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
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