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Innovating for a business that is cost cutting


Every business goes through hard times, financially speaking. There are times when you will fly economy to save on cost. A time when the focus is selling more with little. When you can only spend as little as possible but bring in as much as you can.

When a company is going through these tough times, introduction of new products is never really a priority because all new products need brand support through advertising to create awareness. So what happens if your key role for the business is to help them bring new product offering into the market? What do you do when you are in charge of innovation but the business is cutting costs and focusing on immediate sales returns. This is how to say a float;

1. Focus on other stages of product development

Determine the stage where you are at in the development process then decide what you can do given the situation. You do for instance not need money to generate ideas. Look at your pipeline and review all relevant research that will be helpful when the business picks up

2. Review all projects and have a new priority list

Ask yourself which projects must really go on. Base this on costs. If the cost of putting the project on hold is going to be expensive e.g. through high inventory or expiries of raw materials, you may have to consider going a head

3. Do not stop meeting

As a project lead, you may feel the need to stop meeting given that most projects are on hold. Instead of cancelling these meetings you can reduce the frequency based on your reviewed priority list. See what you can work on so that when you have new budgets the turnaround time is faster. You don’t want to all start running around for things that could have been sorted earlier. Leave only actions that have money implication.

4. Focus on projects that will yield the most return with the least investment

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These are usually projects that are renovations or those with incremental changes. Such products may not require too much investment to help create awareness. You will need minimal budgets to get the product out there. There are also projects that may be at launch phase when the business decides to freeze budgets or reduce spend. Given that the projects have gone through full development you may want to have these launched too.

5. Relook at your process and check for improvement areas

When a business is cutting costs, most projects will be put on hold for obvious reasons. Instead of whining about how you are stuck, you can use the time saved from NPD meetings to focus on ensuring that your process actually works. Check and improve on processes such as the SOPs and gate approvals across all phases of product development. Improve on those things that you would normally not find time to do when you are busy delivery projects within defined time frames. Now you have a little more time to check and improve.

6. Build an innovation culture through internal trainings

An innovation culture is key in ensuring that you successfully introduce products into the market. Culture is built over time but must start somewhere. Make time to take your innovation team through the process. Refresh their memory on the process. Let them really understand their part in delivery on the innovation projects. People learn better when there is no pressure to deliver faster. Help the team have the right tools and mindset before you kick off again when the business outlook is better.

By Senorine Wasike, Innovation Leader & scholar on innovation topics

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