There are lots of reasons why companies want to have the shortest possible Time to Market.
The main reason is to launch your product in the right market window, the point after which it will be too late to launch it and your development investment will be lost.
Here, I’ll give you 5 relevant solutions for a Faster Time to Market; this is all taken from my Engineering and Project Management experience.
All of these solutions are compatible with each other, and the more you combine them, the better your Time to Market will be.
I will additionally share with you the 8 most common reasons why Electronic products miss their Time to Market and how meeting or missing your Time to Market impacts profitability.
Just use the table of contents below to jump to the section you want to read.
5 Ways to Speed Up Your Time to Market
- 1. Don’t reinvent the wheel
- 2. Focus on your product highest added value features
- 3. The Product Roadmap
- 4. Manage the information flow
- 5. Accelerate decision making
- 1. Unclear key specifications and requirements
- 2. Leaving the hardest part for last
- 3. Assess the impact of product requirements change
- 4. Unforeseen technical challenges
- 5. Component availability
- 6. Weak team management
- 7. Employee availability gap
- 8. Lack of regulatory knowledge
- 1. Catch a market window
- 2. Catch a technology window
- 3. Sell your Electronic Product at the best price.
- 4. Be first to the world
- 5. Be first to market
- 6. Efficiently improve your product
- 7. Get to the market before it’s too crowded
5 Ways to Speed Up Your Time to Market
1. Don’t reinvent the wheel
If you are new to the electronics industry, you will need all the help you can get to meet your Time to Market.
Hardware and firmware both take a lot of time, expertise, and money to get them right. There are many aspects to master, and pitfalls to avoid.
As much as possible, don’t customize a single component unless it’s absolutely necessary, use pre-certified modules, existing and reliable devices, standardize as much as you can: use existing protocols, security schemes, server architectures, and use always-available components.
Then, calling on the service of external companies is an excellent way to improve your Time to Market. For instances:
You need to find an ODM with a tried and tested relationship. Some factories will only help you improve if they are sure they will get the business. Otherwise, they will focus support on other projects which promise more money sooner.
- Outsource non-core business
- Leave warehousing and shipping to a fulfillment company: Amazon is the more famous and performant in B2B and B2C business, but there are others such as Exertis, or Alibaba.
- Market survey companies: Market survey companies such as NBRI, Prodege, or Survey Junkie will investigate and confirm what your customers’ expectations are, the core of your project.
Be careful; however, using external companies does not necessarily mean “parallelizing” the process.
Remember: it is not possible to make a child in one month with nine women, and some steps need to be performed one after the other.
2. Focus on your product highest added value features
To respect your product’s Time to Market, it is essential to spend time identifying your product’s highest added-value features, so you focus on the real profitable part of it.
When developing a new product, you likely have 5 core functions and 45 bells and whistles.
The bells and whistles are heavy and will make you lose a lot of time; focus on getting the 5 core functionalities of the product on the market fast, get real feedback, then iterate over it adding the whistles that people want.
Remember when HTC thought having a physical “Facebook” button was a clever idea?
To get customers’ feedback as early as possible in the development process, you should build a Proof of Concept, prototypes, or beta versions of your product that allow for real-life testing with potential users.
This is crucial to find out which is the key highest added value feature users are looking for.
3. The Product Roadmap
Product Roadmap is a clear way to show the product developments and updates, the stakeholders’ roles, and the different milestones over time.
This document is your product development base frame, displaying your platform architecture, the reusable codes, modules and library, and what your product should aim at.
Moreover, it is the perfect document to share the product information efficiently with your team.
4. Manage the information flow
Because companies’ volumes of information are always growing, managing it becomes essential.
Indeed, when the data flows seamlessly through the different departments or process steps, it is possible to prevent delays because your product Time to Market should always be your priority.
Our tried and tested solution is, encouraging teams’ collaboration to facilitate wide information dissemination:
- Adopt a communication model between your team’s task giver and task performer :
-Clarify the procedure and intention each time it is necessary. What? How? Why?
-Give constant feedback during the planning and processing of tasks between the task giver and performer. Do it at least once a day but preferably more.
-The task giver needs to be always fully updated on what the performer has done and how.
-When there are contrasting ideas, the task giver is the one who will make the final call.
We believe in a corporate culture in which the task performer becomes fully accountable and delivers his or her updates on time and without the need to ping him or her all day long for that.
- Encourage the frequent sharing of information by using collaborative tools. Our favorites are:
-Slack as our communication platform. Performant and lots of features
-Evernote is our note-taking, organizing, and archiving app
-Gitlab as a support for our software development
- Be clear and concise when exchanging emails:
-Have a clear objective
-Get to the point from the first email sentence
-Stick to one topic
-Call recipients by their name on the mail body, and explicitly ask them what you expect from them
-List questions with numbers or literals, so it becomes easier for recipients to reply
5. Accelerate decision making
Decision-making is an essential step in the product development process, as important as its implementation. In a context where the time passing is against your Time To Market, there are several ways to reduce the decision-making process.
Take note of any important information: Take notes as soon as you have any information. Sometimes we get distracted, and that leads us to forget essential details. If shared, use email instead of chat as much as possible. Record keeping is invaluable.
Think of at least four company priorities impacted by a decision: By keeping the company’s stakes in mind, you’ll avoid pitfalls.
Don’t decide as a team: you need to have a single decision-maker for key aspects of the project; having a Product Manager totally changes perspective; the product manager owns the key device decisions and needs to be empowered to make decisions on the go. It should be someone you trust enough that you can be certain she/he’ll make the right decision.
This is particularly important for smaller companies; for large multinationals this is impossible. In this case, people allow perspectivity in the decision-making, but too many people lead to less yield.
Think about the other alternatives: More creativity leads to more choices and drives to a decision-making improvement.
Remain in constant communication: If you get your employees on the “nothing happens without a meeting game”, then that will be your future.
You will burn countless hours of your team, and won’t speed things up. Want to be radical: adopt a no meeting policy; decisions must be made the day they are needed, by mail, chat, however, you need that to happen, but you can’t wait until the “next scheduled meeting” to make something happen.
In the fast-moving industry of electronics, product development failures will cause delays and hurt your product’s Time to Market.
Arriving late on the scene translates into lower unit margins, higher NRE costs, and it could even be damaging for your brand reputation.
You certainly don’t want your brand to be seen as a copycat.
When you’ve been in the electronics manufacturing business for a while, you learn which are those variables that will surely make your product miss its Time to Market, and you learn to prepare for it.
We’ve compiled a list of the Top reasons that get in the way of your product reaching your users at the right time.
Use this list to either avoid other’s past mistakes or to create contingency plans.
1. Unclear key specifications and requirements
This is the main reason behind a product’s delay.
Unclear specifications or requirements will make you waste money and time; you can say goodbye to that market window.
Vague goals will only lead to useless development, useless tests, and even meaningless prototypes.
Some questions that can make you identify the objectives are:
-Why are we doing this project?
-How do these objectives compare to the company’s strategy?
-Who are the stakeholders?
-Who will be the users?
2. Leaving the hardest part for last
At first, you might feel like you’re making good progress, but a lot of electronic design projects get stuck in getting the last 5% right.
If you don’t know, early enough, if something cannot be achieved at an acceptable budget, then you’ll lose a lot of time and money, and for sure, miss your Time to Market.
To avoid it, this is our advice:
-Ensure your architecture allows for multiple options, so if by mid-development you can’t reach performance, you have a plan B to fall back to
-Hit the lab for compliance testing as soon as the first in-form factor prototypes are available
-Start talking to your factory as soon as you have your first BOM so they see and validate your component selection
-Prototype your ID mockups as early as possible so all stakeholders can ‘feel’ the product early on
-Do not miss the opportunity to save one month down the road by investing one week now. For instance, build a test board for a given component that can be prototyped in 2~3 days and will clear many questions, instead of waiting for a full larger PCB to be ready
The head-in-the-sand-policy is a product development’s worst enemy. Trust me; there’s no better way to make your project fail.
3. Assess the impact of product requirements change
The requirements of a product are its core. If the requirements change during the product development process, the technical design will have to change drastically.
Indeed, especially in the electronics industry, components have an exact function and way of working. 100 Watt, it is not 110 Watt, 10cm are not 9,8cm, or 10,000 uses per year are not 12,000.
It is easy to fall into a Domino effect, and product requirements changes can lead to a complete product redesign that will cause you to miss your Time to Market.
However, 10W extra, 0.2mm longer, or 2,000 more uses can make the buy or sell difference. Design changes are needed but make sure to assess the impact.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”
4. Unforeseen technical challenges
Technical issues are rather constant and common in any product development process, but when addressed too late, they can decrease the Time to Market.
The best solution is to have prototypes frequently developed and tested.
Because we use it very frequently, we also recommend you to get a laser cutting machine for the large pieces or even a stereolithography machine for the pieces that require more precision such as gears.
Those tools are perfect for quickly producing and testing prototypes.
5. Component availability
Sometimes, you find the ideal component for your product; it fits your needs perfectly; it is cheap and performant, but if you cannot source the quantities you need on time, then it’s useless.
When you have to manufacture 10k units, and you’re running against time to meet your Market Window, making sure your supplier can provide the needed components at the right time is a vital matter.
Our solution is to design with alternates in mind; especially if your design spins around a core functionality or ASIC, and to talk to your factory and component suppliers early on.
If you realize one of the components in your design has a long lead time, be careful not to switch to a more readily available but more expensive component. This could translate into a significant price increase for the final product.
Also Read: How to Reduce Components Lead Time
6. Weak team management
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about having an old fashion management style where managers yell at their employees and where the only company motto is “silence and work.”
I’m talking about making sure your employees will follow your instructions.
Taken from my personal experience, some developers may prefer prioritizing tasks not in the way you decided, or even worst, they might choose to develop their solutions as opposed to what the management team decided.
This will undoubtedly make you lose weeks, and you’ll take a severe delay on your Time to Market.
Most of the time, developers make these mistakes because they don’t have a global view of the project and only think of their specific tasks, without realizing that what they’re doing doesn’t fit, for instance, with the other developers’ work or even manufacturing guidelines.
The boss is not right because he is the boss. But the boss has the last word because he is the boss.
The words of our CTO
7. Employee availability gap
Yet another reason for missing your Time to Market.
It is necessary to be as accurate as possible when identifying the needed engineers for the project.
In industries such as electronics where lots of different expertise (hardware, software, firmware, mechanical, purchase, prototype, etc…) need to be performed at the same time and in synergy, a missing developer, designer, or anyone else is a bottleneck or, even worst a missing link in the chain for the product development process.
It is essential to think about a back-up solution to avoid any delays due to illness, personal leave, or any other issue.
Be careful, hardware and firmware/software development need a lot of expertise, and sometimes it is not that easy to find the right person.
8. Lack of regulatory knowledge
When you develop a new electronic product, if you don’t want to miss your Time to Market, you need to be aware of all the related regulations.
Most of the time, obtaining a certification can take between 3 and 12 months, you can easily double this time if you have to redevelop some parts of your product because it doesn’t meet regulations standards.
It’s not that easy to certify products such as drones, smartphones, or even a simple laser device.
Also, the law can be against your product.
Have you heard about Google Glass? Futurist glasses, able to record videos and run apps such as Google maps or Gmail.
Unfortunately, they could potentially be used for spying or recording in casinos or locker rooms. That forces google to stop this product
There are lots of reasons why companies want to have the shortest possible Time to Market, like being the first to reach the end user’s hands or catching the right Market Window.
The latter is essential because an efficient Time to Market leads to higher profitability and a better brand reputation.
Moreover, in the electronics industry, in particular, a fast Time to Market in electronics means being ahead of fast followers.
But be careful because lots of pitfalls can make you miss the perfect Time to Market.
1. Catch a market window
For an electronic product to maximize profit, it needs to be launched in due course.
If the launch is ahead of time, the audience is not ready; if the launch is behind time, the product is obsolete.
This due course is called the optimal market window, and it is the best moment to launch your product, to sell more, and maximize your profit.
Your product sales curve will gradually rise to reach its maximum and slowly decrease until the trend is over.
If you launch too late, your sales will never reach the optimal peak, and if it is to early it will never reach your targeted users.
Then, having a short Time to Market also gives you more flexibility in your electronic product development.
For instance, in 2004, Microsoft launched the “SPOT watch,” the very first connected watch, able to send traffic alerts, weather updates, and so on.
Its production stopped in 2008 because the SPOT watch was launched too early, the public wasn’t used to this kind of technology.
Ten years later, Apple launched the “Apple Watch Series 1”, when the public was more used to connected devices, and the technology was ready: an absolute commercial success.
Also, missing a launch date can be very costly: Tradeshow booths paid for, PR campaigns booked, sales, and support teams sitting on their hands… Moreover spend more time developing the product means spending more money.
2. Catch a technology window
If you take too long to develop your electronic device, some of the main features of your device will be outclassed by more advanced models, and your dated product will not sell much.
For instance, it is the case for the new dual-camera or triple-camera for smartphones.
When HTC launched its Evo 3D in 2011, the first smartphone equipped with dual-camera, the technology wasn’t effective enough and the rendering too close from a single-camera smartphone.
But in 2016 when Huawei launched its first dual-camera smartphone, the P9, their technology was ready and the rendering had a real plus.
All the high-end brands that did not follow this revolution missed the market.
Also, many component manufacturers in consumer and B2B electronics will completely stop manufacturing outdated components you might have decided to use in your electronics design: it goes EOL (End of Life).
If the components you chose are no longer being made, you will have to make a significant redesign of your product.
This will harm any profits forecast you drew up for your product.
3. Sell your Electronic Product at the best price.
If a competitor makes it to the market before you do, they’ll have more time to get customers’ feedback and improve their product, therefore making it more attractive to consumers.
By the time you enter the market, you’ll probably have to offer your less optimized product at a lower price, or else you won’t get much attention from consumers.
The latter also means, “Less time to sell it and less money to gain.”
4. Be first to the world
However, developing a first-to-the-world product means that many assumptions (both on the technical and user side) need to be tested, and this leads to many iterations before you get it right, this translates into a costly process.
In contrast, a fast follower can simply focus on improving something which already works and sells.
5. Be first to market
In more mature industries such as smartphones, being the first to come out with a particular new feature can boost your brand reputation as a technological leader.
A specific segment of consumers wants to make sure they always have the latest and most fabulous model.
If you come out with a media feature that your competitor already launched five months ago, chances are consumers will have little to no interest in it.
6. Efficiently improve your product
In the fast-moving industry of electronics, it is essential to efficiently update your product during the development stage.
Indeed, when you get product feedbacks or consumer requirements edits, it is essential to fit your users’ needs as fast as possible to maximize your audience (and then your profit).
The audience for products such as smartphones, headphones, or digital cameras is always looking for the last trendy improvement or comfort.
7. Get to the market before it’s too crowded
In the technology business, there are many potential competitors, and because factories can produce large stocks very quickly, the Time to Market in electronics is fast.
Unfortunately, sometimes you are the first to develop a product, but not the first to launch it, and when you finally do, you find yourself in an overloaded market.
If it happens, you are not only going to lose profit, but you are not going to earn any profit.
As an example, let me take the shared electric scooter market. The product development process for shared scooters and personal ones are different.
It takes more time to develop a shared electric scooter; it needs to be safe, reliable for more duty cycles, rainproof, resistant to bad users, crashes, etc.
The two first companies to launch their products (Lime in San Francisco and Bird in Santa Monica) got rich in less than one year, the others took the crumbs.
The market was overcrowded; the first companies had users’ feedbacks, time to improve their scooters, time to create a brand reputation and place their products all around the world.
When the other brands arrived in the market, it was already too late, lots of municipalities around the world simply decided to forbid their products.
Are there proven examples of too early Time to Market in electronics?
Sure, tons! I mentioned Microsoft “SPOT watch 1.
Another electronic product example, also from Microsoft, would be the “Microsoft tablet PC” launched in 2003.
Working with a screen-compatible pen, this launch was too early: The technology was costly, underperforming, and the tablet wasn’t ergonomic because of not enough users’ feedback.
Let’s take another example, an online service: LetsBuyIt came into the market in 1999 when customers were not ready yet to use the internet this way.
They spent a lot of money on advertising, hoping users will come. Finally, ten years later, companies such as Groupon have been created. The same service, a radically different success.
Are there examples of products that failed because of a too late Time to Market in electronics?
There are not many examples, for an apparent reason: It was so late that such products didn’t get a chance to make themselves known.
When it is too early, it is revolutionary, it makes noise, but when it is too late, it is irrelevant. Yet, here is an example, the last videocassette recorder (VCR) ever produced.
You must be thinking it was manufactured many years ago. However, the last one was produced by Funai Electronic in…. 2016, in a time where more convenient devices such as DVD or Blu-ray were already struggling against USB or streaming services.
They sold 750.000 units, a lot you might say, but far from the previous 15 million units, they sold the past years. Luckily for them, now they are developing high-tech flat-screen TVs, more in line with the times.
Is Time To Market equally crucial for both new and existing customers?
Some might say Whatever, the shorter, the better.
But this question could even deserve an article of its own to get a final answer because it relates to strategical marketing.
In other words, “Customer acquisition vs. customer retention Time to Market strategy.”
First of all, You need to understand that your customers are not all equally important to your business.
It is much easier to do business with existing customers because they know you and have a trust-based relationship with you.
You have to answer one question: “They have already bought one of my products, what else could they possibly want?”.
But for new customers, you have to build everything since they don’t know you and haven’t established a trust-based relationship with you yet.
Then you have to find, interest, convince and satisfy those potential new customers, and this is a costly and lengthy process.
The users’ needs have to be the core of your product development strategy.
It means that your product development time can take longer if you don’t target the same type of your existing because you need more features, different specifications, etc.
So it seems logical to favor existing customers because there are more profitable and then, in a way, more important from a business perspective.
What is the typical Time to Market in electronics?
The Time to Market will depend on a lot of factors: The technology maturity, how precisely you know your customer needs, what is the needed reliability, how experienced is your development team, is it just product modifications or whole new product development, etc.
Taken from our 20 years of experience, for whole new product development, its specification, and business analysis can take between 1 to 6 months.
It is primordial to make sure that the specifications and business analysis steps are well done, to develop the product that precisely suits your customers’ needs.
Once this step is done, until the optimal production volume achievement, it can take from 7 to 26 months, depending on the needed development iterations, the complexity, the required reliability, etc.
Product certification step is one of the most time-consuming and can take up to a year for some products.
How can I estimate the Time to Market in electronics?
The only way to make an accurate estimation is to have experience in the electronic product development industry.
If you are inexperienced, most of the time, your estimate will be much less than the real needed product Time to Market.
So, unfortunately, the only answer I can provide is: ask experts.
What is more important between having the best product and a quick time to market?
After reading this article, the answer won’t surprise you:
It is more important to have a quick Time to Market for all the reasons explained above.
You can have the best possible product, but if your targeted users have been satisfied with another product, it doesn’t matter anymore.