CRE8 Perspective Article in DESIGN Magazine01-Mar-2005
Candidates interviewed at CRE8 keep informing us that several “big players” in the electronics industry are hiring many product designers. Industry sources confirm this and tell us that the increased hiring demand is not only for industrial designers but also for trend analysts, sociologists, graphic interface designers and marketing people. It is exciting to hear that the business is getting serious about multidisciplinary teams and the role they need to play in project development.
Even today, many organizations use a voting system to pass important project milestones. The practice is to rush several employees into a meeting room where they quickly review the work at hand. After some brief analysis, people cast a vote and the sum of those decides future action plans. While this may seem democratic, the process can be dangerous. Too little information may be released regarding the overall project, target market segment and aimed at user.
For other companies it is common practice to wait for a senior manager to make project-related decisions. This works for planning and roadmap matters, but it is dangerous to base strategy-related actions on the input of one person only.
Next up the ladder are those enterprises that try to get their customer’s feedback in an early stage. Although better than the previously mentioned selection processes, development teams need to be cautious as their clients -managers in the retail and bundle channels- tend to give a skewed perspective of the market. Those planners give comments based on what they want today. Not a year from now when the shown proposals will hit the market. Should they have a great idea for the future, chances are that they are not going to release their innovation to outsourcing partners.
When ODM customers take the time to give insightful comments they tend to ask for the risky. It is not their budget to waste so they give aggressive input to see where ideas will go. If all fails, the competition can still offer an off-the-shelf solution to fill their product slot. It is much better to show to product managers a few mature proposals in order to get focused and constructive feedback.
It is here that Taiwanese enterprises need to start thinking like real solution providers not anymore as manufacturers. True ODM projects are those that are financially interesting but on which brand companies cannot spend their precious marketing and development resources. Local companies can fulfill this requirement by offering strategic answers to their clients ’ problems. Those solutions have to cover a broad range, from establishing target groups to creating and implementing the right marketing and sales strategies.
At present, Taiwanese companies tend to present multiple solutions to their clients in the hope that they will select one of many samples. This trial-and-error strategy means that development teams shift their focus very fast to create as many mainstream product proposals as feasible. Chances for success depend on the sheer number of device choices and aggressive pricing. Many fully functional items never make it to the market as they are too mediocre to compete.