Planning better products

Eddy Lek (MBA 2010)

eddy_lekEarlier this month we spoke to Eddy Lek, Co-opted Director, MBA Alumni-NUS, to learn more about his life and thoughts on product planning and strategy as a Global Product Manager for Rockwell Automation.

Think behind the label – Product planning
As a Global Product Manager for Rockwell Automation, I am deeply involved in every aspect of product management, from product development to analyzing market conditions. Even off the clock, I find myself looking at products to discern why people purchase one product and not another.

Our purchasing decisions hinge on the monumental task of choosing either product A or product B. Whether we choose to buy hand soap because its 20 cents less or a car that costs 20% more but has a self-parking system, our choices come down to two realities:

1. Does it do what another product does cheaper?
2. Does it make my task(s) easier?

Your products are better because of strategic planning
We never really think about the planning that goes into the products we purchase. But by doing so, we can gain insight that helps us make better purchasing decisions. A well-developed product will always seem tailored to our needs, whether it’s to save a few dollars or to save the day.

So what makes bad products so – bad? The answer is actually quite simple – poor planning and execution. The quality products that we grab from store shelves were created with successful strategic plans that follow the Five Ws:

Who is the product’s intended consumer base?
What are the product’s current gaps and growth opportunities?
Why is the product being developed?
Where should the product’s strategic market be?
When will the product begin to show returns?

So a strategic plan that answers the Five Ws will succeed, right? Not necessarily. There’s a saying that “execution is more important than planning.” A perfect plan that is executed poorly will likely fail, but a lousy plan that is executed superbly actually has a higher probability of success. So how can you identify what products are well planned and executed? Let me tell you about a little trip I made.

A trip to the mall

As I walked through the mall the other day, I took a few moments to visit the showroom of a retailer of massage chairs. Among many full-sized massage chairs, I noticed what appeared to be just a normal sofa chair. As I took a closer look, the salesperson showed me the chair’s unique feature, which was a contractible leg massager.

Combining compact size with the massage feature seen on larger massage chairs, I immediately saw that this was a chair meant for middle-class Singaporeans living in today’s smaller living spaces. Because limited space makes larger massage chairs impractical, this product filled the need for a smaller massage chair aimed specifically at the middle-class market segment.

As the compact massage chair showcases, a well-planned and executed product satisfying an unmet consumer need will gain consumer interest and sales. If I had been specifically looking for a massage chair that day, the compact massage chair would have made an attractive purchase.

About Eddy Lek
Eddy Lek (MBA 2010) is a Global Product Manager for Rockwell Automation, where he provides leadership and guidance to the product development team, manages product launches and provides product-cycle management. Prior his position at Rockwell Automation, he managed the “go-to-market” regional strategy for another automation company, planning and creating a sustainable product line in Singapore.