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The Middle of the Idea-to-Cash Journey

Turning an idea into a revenue-generating product can be a long and complex process, but it’s manageable with proper support and technology. In part one of our series, we covered the first steps of the idea-to-cash journey, including:

  • The basics of product ideation and design 
  • The challenges specialty manufacturers are most likely to run into

The next leg of the journey is the make-it-or-break-it phase for every product: transforming it from an idea into a tangible object. Here are the challenges you can expect to encounter, and the tools to help you overcome them.

Challenges on the Road to Success

The middle of the idea-to-cash journey is all about bringing a product design to life and getting it ready for market. At this stage, stakeholders in every department need to align on the product, its purpose, and design feasibility. The original concept of the product might change if sales and marketing don’t see its potential or the company is dealing with budget and production constraints. As you can imagine, this has the potential to be pure chaos — and it often is.

Here’s what makes this part of the idea-to-cash journey challenging:

  • Information Overload. In the product ideation and design phase, the sky’s the limit for what designers can bring to the table. Even with creative freedom, their ideas must eventually face reality. For example, as designs become finalized in computer-aided design (CAD), marketing and sales may realize the product doesn’t provide a competitive advantage and isn’t worth producing. Supply chain issues may balloon the price of certain materials and send engineers to find more cost-effective alternatives. Every meeting has the potential to change the course of the product lifecycle, and it can become incredibly challenging to manage all of the information.
  • Inefficient Communication. With so many stakeholders, getting everyone on the same page and communicating well can be as challenging as changing product design. Feedback can come from various channels, including phone calls, emails, Slack messages, in-person meetings, and even doodles on napkins. The project manager’s task is not only to route and compile all incoming communications, but also to keep stakeholders updated on the latest decisions.
  • Data Silos. With so many communication channels — not to mention critical product launch moments — it’s easy for information to slip through the cracks and get lost in a silo. Forgetting to copy the right people in an email could leave entire departments in the dark about the status of a project, resulting in miscommunications, or even moving forward with the wrong document version. Critical information could be trapped on a teammate’s password-protected computer while they’re out of the country on vacation and unreachable.

PLM: The Tool for the Journey

Product lifecycle management (PLM) software is a type of database and project management system specifically designed for managing product data. PLM acts as a central database for all product information throughout a product’s lifecycle.

In this middle part of the journey, stakeholders can upload their own documents directly to the platform so that it’s available to everyone in real time, eliminating data silos and improving interdepartmental collaboration. Many platforms even enable chat or comments for more streamlined feedback and responses.

PLM also integrates with other software platforms commonly used in manufacturing, like customer relationship management (CRM) software, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and configure, price, quote (CPQ) software, so engineers can stay in the loop on supply chain and marketing issues that might affect their designs, and make sure any changes don’t affect the viability of different configurations. Seamless data transfer between different platforms also eliminates bottlenecks and human error.

PLM enables unprecedented levels of collaboration and transparency in project management, and is indispensable for any modern manufacturer competing in today’s market. Schedule a demo with one of our experts and see the benefits it can have on your operation. For more information on the idea-to-cash journey, check out Part 3 of our guide.

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