During the last 10 years I’ve faced the challenge of stimulating new product innovation in many different industries. I’d like to review two in detail, software tools and precision engineering manufacturing to illustrate a solution to innovation. Where do you look for inspiration? I’ve found the most productive method that consistently works is to understand how your products are actually used in your customer’s business.

Process Maps

Ask yourself: how does my product or service fit into my customer’s process map, technology stack, and workflow? In other words what is the bigger picture? Here are two examples to inspire you to look at the bigger picture and perhaps in doing so, discover lucrative product or service ideas within your skillset that fits with your positioning in the market.

Case Study #1 – Software Tools Vendor – Lotus Notes

The business had built a very successful niche in helping developers build better code with light $1000 software tools which performed various common tasks very efficiently, eg analysis of bugs, storing of code, version control, roll back. All functions that the main Lotus Notes application platform did poorly.

However by standing back and looking at the bigger process the customer was deploying, the team were able to spot great new lucrative product and service ideas, outside of Development, in the $15,000 to $75,000 range that helped stimulate growth. In this case the bigger process was the Application Lifecycle Management Process. This process, deployed by all customers contained 5 distinct stages namely, Requirements, Design, Development, Test and Production. The company had really only serviced the Development stage historically but now their eyes were open to new possibilities for products and services that solved customer’s issues in all of the 4 other stages leading to a period of very profitable growth.

Case Study #2 – Precision Engineering Manufacturer

The company had built an enviable reputation as a manufacturer, supplying precision metal parts to all the main industries including, Telcoms, IT, Energy and Food. However by standing back to understand the bigger picture the company was able to spot customer needs unfulfilled. The bigger process was the Product Lifecycle Map. Every manufacturer deploys this map covering, Design, Development, Launch and Production. By looking at this process map the company was able to pose real issues on their web site that they could solve outside of their original manufacturing business eg Are you getting the best deal from your Contract Manufacturer? How do mitigate raw material inflation including fuel? How do you take costs out of your supply chain? Thus new lucrative engineering consulting services were born.


In setting out your positioning that defines your story to the market and therefore your product road map, be careful to look at the big picture. Customers don’t use products in splendid isolation. They use them as part of an integrated process. What is that process and how can you help? Perhaps it can drive some innovation that customers will actually pay for!