How company analysis fuels the product development journey

Today’s post is all about company analysis – Stage 2 in the product development journey. All companies have strengths and weaknesses. Most play to their strengths, yet many choose to hide their weaknesses, pretending they don’t exist. Most weaknesses are based on ego.

For this part of the journey, it is often helpful to involve someone from outside the company with broad experience – a non-executive director or generalist consultant who can see the organisation in context. The strengths and weaknesses need to be seen in relation to the market and competitive companies. This is difficult for those on the inside.

Company strengths analysis

In some circles, this is described as identifying “distinctive competence” – internal strengths that set the organisation above others. For example, a company considering exporting to Europe had overlooked an office in Germany that had been there for very many years and was no longer a part of management thinking. This office provided the ideal entry point.

A well respected leader described leadership as being based on just three elements:

  • purpose
  • what’s in it for those following, and
  • the ability to communicate well.

One aspect he didn’t mention was the courage to go there in the first place. He has that in abundance so he took it as read and overlooked it, and unfortunately the audience only got part of the picture.

Company weaknesses analysis

Usually this is done badly or in a perfunctory manner to avoid criticising the boss. It may therefore be helpful to have someone from outside who can take some of the pressure off those with a career in the organisation. In the main, company weaknesses fall into two areas:

  • management
  • distribution.

Often the weakness of management is the result of poor communication from on high: the board of directors know and understand the organisation’s purpose, strategic intent and mission, but no one has thought to put this into words and benefits that make sense to the majority within the organisation. The workforce have to guess what’s in the minds of senior management, or absorb it through osmosis.

An outsider can challenge senior management and drive for a clear, crisp message that makes sense throughout the organisation. They can then find different ways to communicate that message to different work groups – one size does not fit all!

Distribution can be tricky, because there are so many links in the supply chain between organisation and client. Even buying online probably involves several servers, virus bombardment, credit card security, and so on. Once given, the order is then dependent on the supplier having local stock (not in China) and a subcontracted delivery company that might not be too reliable in practice.

Direct delivery can also be problematic. During the days when cigarette vending was acceptable and the big market was pubs and clubs, some companies identified condoms as a profitable add-on. They overlooked the fact that cigarettes went into people’s mouths, condom machines went into the toilets. To be legal they needed a second, parallel distribution service.

Key points about company analysis

  • Often the areas that need additional input to foster change are management and distribution.
  • Communication is often overlooked – one size does not fit all.
  • An outsider can be very helpful in challenging the status quo and traditional wisdom.

Stage 3 of the product development journey is market analysis, and I’ll cover this in my next post. If you missed my first two posts in this series, you can catch up here:

Travelling the product development highway

Creating the right corporate mindset for product development

For further information or advice on this topic, email me or call me on 020 7099 2621.

Map of the product development highway