In the fourth in a series of blog posts looking at how to bring a new product to market, Teddington MD James Henderson examines the importance of agreeing a production process.


Over the course of the last few weeks we’ve looked at what we’re going to do, the rules within which we have to work and the importance of teaming up with a genuine expert.  Now it’s time to examine the production process itself.

From the begining it must be made clear to everyone exactly what they are going to get out of the project and when. There are far too many occasions when people are not clear because things like costs or intellectual property handling are not dealt with up front.

The further down the development process you go, the harder it is to have conversations of this kind. It can quickly turn relationships sour.

Next, agree a single process with all of your development partners that will identify and mitigate the risks as early as possible.

The following are the two most common. Both do not work very well:

1. Fixed price. Requirements always shift and the moment this is done all bets are off. Your success is now based purely on the strength of personal relationships.

2. Time and materials. As a development partner, every project I have seen with this approach ends up with a conversation like: “So, what did you deliver in the last two weeks?” and ultimately: “How do I get out of simply writing open cheques?”

Therefore, embrace a 3rd option. Break the project down into fixed price, manageable stages and perform a review with all parties at the end of every iteration. The key stages are:

1. Functional prototype. Stop the development at the stage where it does everything that you want it to do. It doesn't matter how you get there or how ugly it is, just do it as quickly as possible. It's at this stage where most of the requirements will change – so don’t try to develop the whole product. Instead prove that you are developing the correct thing.

2. Engineering prototype. This should be a version that is functionally complete using components that are representative of the final solution. It is not a version that is ready for sale. The intention is to prove as quickly as possible that the designed solution actually works. It's also the first opportunity to review the costs of the project in a half representative way. If these are unpalatable, stop. Don't pour good money after bad.

3. Production sample. This should be an exact sample representative of real production and, ideally, produced using full production techniques. These become the golden samples that are used to:

  • Get approvals where needed
  • Set the benchmark for production units
  • Create quarantined known working versions for reference
  • Obtain accurate costings for parts and production

At the end of each stage the requirements for the next stage should be set, development costs and timescales specified and the success criteria for moving to the next stage defined.

The point is, you don't waste time pretending you’re further ahead than you actually are. Embrace the fact development is usually an organic process that grows as your product takes shape.

Trust us; it's far quicker and much cheaper to do it this way. This is part of our IP learnt through years of experience.


Read the next blog in this series - building your product or read the previous post entitled find the experts who can help