Make Your Case – Why a Business Case is a Critical Component for Transforming an Idea into a Successful Product
Peter Heuss, P.Eng.
Co-Founder, Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
There’s nothing more exciting than that aha moment – when the light bulb goes off for a great new product. It’s very tempting to dive in right away and start building. But it’s all too easy to get carried away creating, and forget to consider what a new product must do to be successful.
At the end of the day, a product is going to have to be sellable, someone is going to have to want to buy it. It will also have to make the company a profit and it cannot expose the company to any undue risks. That sounds simple enough, but there’s a lot there to consider and it can drastically affect how a product is designed and built.
That first inspiration needs to be weighed against a few very important business decisions to understand if the product is viable, and if so, what are the conditions it will have to meet to be successful. Initially, those decisions will likely be based around market size, time to market and a predicted sales price (potential profit). Those 3 basic criteria are already more than enough to shape the conceptual design.
Building a business case to define the expectations for a new product helps to direct the development and avoid costly unusable labour and purchases. It also lets everyone in the company understand what the goals are for the new concept. A new product that doesn’t meet the business goals is not going to be successful.
The new product idea may come from anyone in the company. It may be from sales filling a customer need, engineering implementing some new tech, or really anyone in the company. A good idea can come from anywhere, but it’s very likely that no one person will fully understand everything that goes into making a successful product. The more input you get from throughout your company will allow you to build a more comprehensive business case.
Typically, when you start to look at the new concept with respect to selling, the idea will change. External input may prove some ideas incorrect or point out missing features. Looking at the end sales volumes and pricing may dictate the eventual manufacturing methods and change the materials, interface, feature set etc. That doesn’t mean the idea wasn’t a good one to start with, it’s just going to help that idea be successful.
As the product ideas are developed, the business case will be refined as well. Like every other design document, it will be a living document. There will be more detail around use cases, regional differences, shipping, manufacturing, industrial design, etc. that affect the company goals for the product.
Take the time to build a business case for every new product idea. They don’t need to be complicated, start with the basics. With a business case in hand, you can begin to develop the new idea in a direction that has much a higher chance of success.