As a product manager and executive, the rush from seeing new ideas come to life drives me forward. Unfortunately, many (if not most) truly new products fail to meet the objectives required of the teams that launch them. Reasons can range from internal impedance to external market surprises. For the past fifteen years, I have searched for a better way to improve the likelihood of product launch success.
Having effortlessly ridden the Internet wave, it was painful to watch my teams struggle in other domains. Some times they were too early, or maybe too late. Some had committees of equals who couldn’t make a decision, while others had hard driving leaders who wouldn’t listen. Almost always, these new product teams and startups needed more information early on when critical decisions were made.
My solution was to identify a way to assess new product / initiative strategy with a repeatable process that combines experienced leadership and transparent team input, implemented as web-based software-as-a-service. Two years of effort have resulted in GAUGE, a combination of method, process and software that delivers a simple formula for new product success.
The GAUGE method enables a product team to work through its business strategy prior to allocation of resources, and adjust quickly to market changes during the development and launch phases. It follows principles rather than rules, and can be adjusted to the wisdom of each market. GAUGE frames potential for success through the following five factors:
|Gap||Describe an audacious vision that allows immediate market entry at a point of maximum customer pain. Customers and potential industry partners must be motivated. Investors need to see the ultimate potential.|
|Advantage||Bring separation that leads to sustainable competitive advantage. List the skills and assets that deliver order of magnitude improvement relative to competitors on the specific qualities necessary to build a product that closes the market gap.|
|Unique||Offer an amazing, one-of-a-kind value proposition that customers love. The market gap exists because it hasn’t yet been addressed. Show some evidence that customers are truly “jumping over the table” for your product.|
|Gain||Implement a proven business model that pays. A positive contribution margin collected in volume covers your fixed costs to generate a sustainable (and growing) profit that justifies the valuation assigned by investors.|
|Execution||Build a team of experienced people who execute against a plan with certain success. Once the strategy is identified, you need to get it done. If the strategy must evolve along the way, good people can make the necessary decisions.|
In a simple formula each factor gets equal weighting, and the team’s current activity by factor is assigned a score of 0, 1 or 2. The total reports potential success on a scale of 0 to 10. Though we believe that we know it when we see it, objective evaluation delivers better results than our subjective “expert” assessment with its potential for error. Quoting Daniel Kahneman from Thinking, Fast and Slow,
“a formula with equal weights can be superior to multiple regression formulas because they are not affected by accidents of sampling.”
This is perfect for the startup world with radically imperfect information.
After putting this simple formula to use myself in real world situations, I quickly saw a problem. My initial clear and objective criteria was limited to the domain I understood well, new Internet applications. What worked in that space did not generally work in biotech, digital health, consumer or other applications. The initial criteria worked for a venture-backed startup with a strongly held strategy, but not for a new technology looking for a home.
I found it necessary to adjust criteria to match the collective wisdom of industry-specific experts. Teams using the GAUGE software have the ability to publish specific criteria unique to their own situation. Senior advisors, investors and board members can work together to tailor the criteria appropriate to the team’s maturity, it’s industry and even a changing economic environment.
Finally, it isn’t enough to get a score once. Improvement comes when teams proactively address their weaknesses. The software allows teams to take a snapshot in time, and save it an archive. After a set period (perhaps one or two quarters), the team can update its strategy and review it again to see if progress had been made.
I built the software to manage the process that teams must follow to benefit from the GAUGE method. It is available to teams that work with me in a professional capacity today. Please contact me through LinkedIn to learn more, letting me know in an introduction of your interest.