Using simple questions and a structured process to achieve new product success.
As product managers, our natural inclination is to solve problems. The Value Innovation Process teaches us how you get to that solution is just as important as the solution itself. The 10-step process involves asking simple questions in a structured way to get to the heart of who your customers are and what problem you are looking to solve for them.
Once those elements are in place, it’s much easier to determine what the solution will be and how you will deliver it. This episode has several guests who will share their experiences with the Value Innovation Process:
- Dick Lee, who literally wrote the book on the Value Innovation Process.
- Ed Wolf, a product manager at Caterpillar Trimble.
- John Chattaway, a product manager at Bobcat Doosan.
In the discussion you will learn:
- What the Value Innovation Process is.
- How it’s being used at Caterpillar Trimble and Bobcat.
- How businesses and customers benefit from following the process.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:50] What is the Value Innovation Process and how did it come about?
Dick Lee: Value Innovation is delivering exceptional value to the most important customer in the value chain. The concept is based on the book Blue Ocean Strategy. That was a great book, but it was missing the process for how to implement value innovation. That’s where we came in.
[4:58] How do you determine your Most Important Customer (MIC)?
Dick Lee: In the B2C world, the MIC is always the consumer. The B2B world is a little more complicated. There are three questions you can ask to help determine who it is: Who is responsible for fixing a problem? Who stands to lose the most financially? Who sees the value in the product? It’s rare to find someone who meets all three, but you’ll usually get two out of three.
[11:06] How is the Value Innovation Process used at Caterpillar Trimble?
Ed Wolf: As a product manager, I’m responsible for sensors and other products that can help improve the workflow and how the machines operate. A machine operator can work more autonomously, which improves efficiency and reduces cost. We are taking plans out of the office and into the machine. Value Innovation really drove home the idea that businesses exist to deliver value to customers. We came to understand that we deliver value by solving problems for our target customer group. Value Innovation taught us to ask the right questions about what problems those customers are facing and what other groups are out there who might benefit from our products or services.
[16:47] Is there a specific project where the Value Innovation Process really made a difference?
Ed Wolf: We recognized an opportunity for worldwide distribution for our dealers and wanted to understand the challenges that prevented them from doing so. We went through a process to document those challenges, develop a solution, and determine how to implement it. Most of the things we came up with were fairly obvious, but we would never have come up with them without going through the Value Innovation Process and doing the work. The discipline of the 10-step process really helped keep us on track.
One of the challenges we heard about from dealers were faulty harnesses on machines. It was difficult for them to verify whether the harnesses were actually working without a lot of troubleshooting. We developed a harness testing kit that lets them verify it’s working before they go any further in their work. This was a simple problem with a simple solution, but solving it added a lot of value for our customers.
[22:59] How has the Value Innovation Process changed your approach to working on a project?
Ed Wolf: As a company of engineers and scientists, our natural inclination is to start with the technology and try to find a customer for it. The Value Innovation Process flips that around and forces us to start with the customer and identifying what problems we’re solving for them. Once you do that, the rest of the project becomes much more simple and focused. When you start with technology, you are forced to guess at what the customer really wants. Value Innovation lays the foundation with the customer right at the start and it’s something you can always refer back to.
[25:03] How is the Value Innovation Process used at Bobcat?
John Chattaway: We like that the process is simple and structured. We’re not all engineers and often have to prove to them that what we’re finding in the field is factual. The Value Innovation Process helps us do that by ensuring that we’re finding and documenting the customer needs correctly. It really helped us on a Voice of Customer project in the Middle East. We used the Most Important Customer methodology and contextual interviews — those two pieces of the process alone dramatically changed the quality of the information we received. We used that data to use the full Value Innovation process when we started a pilot project for a loader product. We were able to fully validate the information we received when we took it back to our technical team. We learned that services and support were just as valuable as technology and we found ways that we could meet their ways without creating new technology.
[33:15] How did Bobcat find the Most Important Customer?
John Chattaway: We were very focused on a few sales channels and knew who we wanted to speak to, but we found that we were ignoring several influence groups. One was health and safety consultants, who often have a say in purchasing or renting of machines in certain markets. We would never have thought about them if we didn’t go through contextual interviews and the Value Innovation Process.
- Free course, Introducing the Value Innovation Process
- Value Innovation Works book
- Value Innovations, Dick Lee’s company
- Connect with Dick Lee via LinkedIn
- Connect with Ed Wolf, Caterpillar Trimble Control Technologies, via LinkedIn
- Connect with John Chattaway, Bobcat Doosan, via LinkedIn
“The Value Innovation process helped us identify specific individuals….” – Mark Forest, Tremble GM
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on social media.