There is room for CI in all phases of the product lifecycle.

Wednesday, April 20 dawned at the RECONVERGE:G2 with a keynote by Jason Voiovich on “Maximizing the Role of Insights Throughout the Product Lifecycle”.

Voiovich began his presentation with an observation of his three themes for good presentations:

  1. Attendees leave with good perspectives, and hope that you can consequently insert yourself through the product lifecycle
  2. To depart with actionable tools to implement immediately to make measurable change
  3. To leave feeling humble—with a realization of how much more there is to learn

Voiovich continued with a story about drug coated stents. J&J was a successful company with every advantage in the marketplace, but things went wrong with their stent product.

Visualization through the product lifecycle of the product requires some limited medical understanding.

Balloon angioplasty (1977) was a precursor. Balloons “squish” plaque against arteries. Twenty years later, a bare metal stent replaced the balloon procedure, acting as a scalpel to hold together the artery walls to prevent collapse.

Less than 10 years later, an improvement via a drug eluting stent was created to address blood thrombosis, and eliminate the “stickiness” of blood platelets and prevent clotting. Approximately five years beyond that, the second gen drug eluting stent addressed the first few yeclotting problems—these products prevented clotting at a further point along the lifecycle to extend life.

Around 2013, biodegradable stents were devised to handle short term clotting issues, but to ultimately degrade such that the stent itself did not lend to clotting.

The lesson for J&J in the story focuses around time gaps between innovations—which became shorter. The innovation timeline has increased exponentially.

J&J failed to reinvest in the innovation process in order to maintain the fast-paced timeline. But what happened at J&J to prevent them from sitting at the from line of innovation?

Product Lifecycle Management

The operation system for product lifecycles:

  • Stage gate process with investment reviews
  • Unique functions, outcomes, and metrics at each stage
  • Variety of stakeholders

“Agile” within the product lifecycle works in some instances, often by necessity—but may not be ideal.

All stages of product lifecycle are not equal, and the typical individual product lifecycle timeline is not equal. Ten percent of overall time is spend in roadmapping services. Development services require about 10% of product lifecycle. Fulfillment phase is where 80% of time is spent in managing the product lifecycle process. This understanding of timeframe has tremendous implications for CU pros who can influence the process.

J&J was well within the commercialization lifecycle of its phase; the competition was more in the developmental phase. J&J experienced inertia to continue sales of the product.

Product lifecycle management is a people-driven process, and stakeholders have different roles at different points in the process. Organizational inertia will carry products forward rather than looping back in a state of self-disruption.

Why didn’t they listen at J&J? How can CI positively impact each phase of the product lifecycle?

It is the unique role of intel and insight to get people to listen, and Voiovich feels things are “not going so well” in this regard. Voiovich had spoken with some employees with longer term employment who remarked during discussions that they had NOT talked with CI pros during their tenure at the organization—perhaps over decades.

The takeaway is that CI people need to learn to inject themselves into the process.

Road mapping

How can CI offer value? There are three escalating levels of support:

  1. Table stakes
  2. Raising the bar, what is the future?
  3. Business perspective


Level One

This is about what competitors are doing today; the level of core knowledge regarding competition: User reviews, patent submissions, monitoring the environment.

At the second level, we look into the future. Where are competitors likely to be in the next couple of years? CI can create a published and unpublished roadmap of multiple possible futures.

Level three differs as it provides a business perspective: “Build vs buy”. Does a competitor have a better concept for us to acquire? This is the phase of the lifecycle where smart, creative people will shine. It is the people-driven process where trust is forged and people see themselves through their own creativity. CI can give them a number of options from which to choose and let the creative types win in this stage.

Development Phase

Compelling products move from R&D into development. Skill sets required are more practical—a very different mindset for stakeholders. This is the stage for executors to lead the charge. Tradeoffs are key, and a critical part of this process. What happens when wrong choices are made? Failure may result. (Consider the Pontiac Aztec.)

Cycles of cost cutting lead to fewer features, which lead to cheap products—bad tradeoffs.

How could CI help to avoid wrong tradeoffs in this stage?

  1. Look at the competition: price points drop.
  2. Does the new product still meet market need? Initial approval of concept does not equal acceptance.
  3. Avoidance of cost balancing: “You should now stop this project even though you have made significant investments”—brands need to be protected. The Pontiac Aztec harmed the brand.

This group in the product lifecycle strives to be on time and on budget. To help them, CI pros can provide multiple possible scenarios in which change can happen and still meet objectives. Give people options that make sense—“Pull the plug” only as a last resort.

During the long-term fulfillment process, the enemy is complacency. Three of four products, on average, never get to market. Of those that do, nine of ten fail to deliver.

Product development is a very difficult process. Therefore; it is no wonder that J&J did not fear the competition—odds of others to beat them were slim.

Fulfillment Stage

GE “Power by the Hour”. CI pros asked, who is the competitor? Transformation of business models come from reframing the competitive set. What does that look like? Replacement parts, as example, do not seek innovation.


Know your audience: How are they objectively and subjectively measured? People don’t necessarily make decisions on fact; rather, on emotion. Know how people are wired.

You will spend most of your time in the fulfillment stage—“the long slog through complacency.”

CI workers need to gain trust by participating at the point of fulfillment. “Get your hands dirty.’

“On any given Sunday, the Green Bay Packers know more about their next opponent than most business stakeholder know about their own company’s products.”

Data masquerades as insights; CI people are needed to offer assistance in helping to provide insights from data.