Every new product launch is an opportunity to leapfrog ahead of your competitors, grab additional market share, connect with new fans, and grow your revenue streams. These are also exciting projects to plan and execute. The enthusiasm across the many internal groups that contribute to new product rollouts is often palpable as everyone shares in the experience of delivering the next innovation to customers.
However, putting a new product out into the world is a complex undertaking. Project teams need to be skilled enough to develop a workable and realistic timeline for the full range of activities that will take place. And given the firm launch dates that drive most new product introductions, organizations must also have rigorous controls in place to proactively identify potential schedule risks and resolve issues before the carefully developed plan falls apart.
If your company has a new product introduction on the horizon, be aware of some common obstacles that could interfere with your timeline and put your project’s launch date in doubt.
Supply chain challenges can throw your new product launch project’s schedule completely out of line. One potential problem is a delay in the arrival of essential components. This can create a snowball of timeline slips that ripple across other areas, ultimately stalling your target launch date. Another issue is the risk of vendors sending unauthorized substitutions in response to shortages, leaving you with materials you can’t use. In addition to tying up budget dollars and space to store and return unwanted items, the real concern is that the supplies you actually need still aren’t on hand to support a timely rollout.
Manufacturing glitches are a frequent cause of delays in new product launches. The root of the problem could be linked to a lack of skilled workers needed to operate production equipment, carry out quality testing and review, and prepare the product for shipment to customers. Or it might stem from outdated, improperly maintained, or broken machinery on the production line. A piece of equipment that’s operating out-of-spec can ruin an entire run of your new product if the issue isn’t caught quickly. This takes time to resolve, and it also consumes raw materials that must be replaced before the manufacturing process can fully restart.
Bugs are such a common occurrence in new software product rollouts that most experienced teams have already built the skills to deal with them. However, critical issues can sometimes crop up that compromise the application or platform’s usability so much that they put the target release date in jeopardy. That’s because even though the bug fix itself may be relatively simple, you still may face a complex resolution process that’s too involved and time consuming to fulfill the original rollout date. You may need to not only fix the problematic software but also run multiple quality reviews plus repeat the user experience tests, all of which have the potential to bump your planned launch date.
Unexpected demand for your product sounds like a great problem to have, but it can cause some serious chaos during the launch phase of your project. If demand exceeds your manufacturing capacity, your sponsors may decide to expand your project with assembly line revisions or other changes intended to increase production levels. Demand can also come in the form of updated expectations, which could prompt senior business leaders to push for changes to the product before its release. The potential for delays related to retooling the production line, expanding feature sets, swapping out materials, or other pre-launch adjustments only adds to the risk that the final target launch date will be delayed.