How One Company Improved Product Development Time by 500%

When I joined onto a small company that sold business products, my main task entailed the creation of instructions and user manuals for the items being developed in house. Even after settling into the position, a normal set of instructions/manuals averaged nearly a month worth of development time.

The reason for the project scope creep became quite apparent when examining the process:

  • There wasn’t set templates to work from (because they were always changing)
  • There wasn’t a process for handling product pictures and editing
  • There wasn’t clear communication issues between the teams working on the project
  • There wasn’t a chain of command (thus creating mayhem with organization)

Needless to say, it created a hostile environment in which fingers were being pointed yet none of them to an exact problem… this had to change.

Over the next six months I took it upon myself to streamline the process of product development; it was a monumental task that had to start from scratch. The result of this task resulted in a 500% improvement in development time which lead to a flood of new products and support.

Want to know how I did it?

The first item, as mentioned, was to create a definitive template for the instructions/manuals because up until that point multiple people worked on them and each one used different terms, image formatting, and structure. Starting from scratch I had the team sit down at the whiteboard and outline how each of the main sections should be treated based on a company-wide best practice. After two weeks of debate and multiple concepts we finally nailed one which made it so it was as easy as replacing a few core elements on any new one created.

The second part of the process was through documentation. The images and process of editing was never truly documented so whenever a part was handed to the new team member it was done completely different than the last which disrupted the flow. Again, we set a process in stone so that it became much like a factory line which had tight quality control.

The third part was to find the right project management software that could delegate tasks to each member of the team while eliminating the need for upper-level individuals micro-manage. Through this software, each person understood their role, were provided checks and balances, and had the ability to generate reports to understand and improve their performance.

The fourth was the team building aspect which placed ego in check and gave definitive command to the individuals which not only allowed them to stop others from interrupting work but have the final say in their activity within the project. By developing the chain of command it stopped much of the in-fighting and aided in bonding with one another rather than feeling they are going at it alone.

In the end we were able to cut the development time of these instructions/manuals for the products from an average 30 day timeframe to a standard workweek. Not only were these items going out to customers rapidly but it also allowed us to work on three additional projects within the month which lead to a massive jump in profitability for the business.

I do believe your business, too, can achieve this dramatic growth in productivity when you attack the core issues rather than trying to find a bandage to the problem. With the right leadership, team collaboration, helpful management tools, and giving people their desired roles you will certainly see what your team can truly do.

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Author: Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to editor.webposts@gmail.com.