On average, Jola launches two new products every month. It’s true that some of these are product extensions, but they are all projects requiring a plan, specification, funding, coding, collateral and training.
This is how I think we do it.
1. Agile, agile, agile. We re-evaluate and re-prioritise every week in a two-hour meeting that includes all the senior stakeholders. We consider every project, regardless of where it is in the process, and we add placeholders for ideas that are either embryonic or ahead of their time. As market conditions and customer needs change, we accelerate, slow down, hold and re-prioritise. We are ruthless, we kill, and park ideas and we don’t invest in marginal vanity projects. We own our own software development resource so we can stop/start projects, and we don’t produce exhaustively detailed specifications.
2. Fill the hopper. Product development cannot be a serial process. So many companies bet the farm on a new product and when conditions change, that should question the original business case, they soldier on regardless – because there is no Plan B. At Jola we have run out of letters for plans. As I write there are 29 products in the development process, 15 with ‘Go’ status. We do not limit the number of projects going into the hopper, and if we have too many projects with equal priority, we get more resource.
3. Reduce your reliance on physical infrastructure. For a long time, the investment community put a premium on CAPEX-heavy companies. I suppose they thought, if the worst happens, at least there’s something to sell! Jola's policy is not to own anything except Intellectual Property - if we can help it. Imagine if houses depreciated in value by 4% a year (networks are typically written off over 25 years) and the only way to maintain the value was to develop and replace parts regularly – everybody would rent! Owning your own network is a huge risk that only a few companies can really afford. It drains cash and resource and product development becomes a vehicle to sweat the asset rather than address the changing needs of the market.
4. Know your customer. Although we only sell through channel, we make sure we understand our partners’ customers really well. We commission our own surveys, we read a lot and we buy data to help us predict changing business needs. For balance, we juxtapose this with feedback from our salespeople and their partners. We are careful with how much weight we attribute to anecdotal feedback. To quote Henry Ford, “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.