Dennis Boyle, Senior Project Leader and Studio Manager
Visor product, Handspring
Handspring, the client, is asking IDEO to design Visor product in approximately 10 months. The design needs to be fully compatible and less expensive version of Palm V, development of which took two years. Such short development time would require IDEO to compromise on its proven development process and sacrifice the emphasis on innovation. Further more, Visor needs to be superior to Palm V with an ability to allow adding new functionality easily. Handspring is also making assumptions about the audience of Visor and audience’s price as well as feature preferences, primarily due to its consideration of Visor as a ‘breakthrough’ product. However, analysis suggests Visor to be an incremental product to Palm V (refer exhibit A: category) and caters to different set of audience. Palm V is an emotionally appealing product that commands premium price, while Visor is supposed to be a value product. Although different products require slight variations in product development process, after thorough scenario and situation analysis (refer exhibit A and B), it is recommended that IDEO should ask Handspring to extend the schedule from 10 months to a more practical schedule that would allow them to follow their ‘proven’ five phase process. An incremental product to market, Visor will be a platform product for Handspring (refer exhibit A: context). Hence it is important to build the product by identifying the correct market segment and integrating needs of the segment with appropriate price (refer ex. A: competition). There will be some disadvantage by not having product in time for Holiday season. However when considering the downside of avoiding market study and diluting IDEO’s famed product development practices, we feel both IDEO and Handspring will loose a chance to introduce a successful product if compromised on the process. (Refer exhibit A)
IDEO has two alternatives to chose from. First alternative is to accept the client’s request as is for a very aggressive schedule. This approach would not allow IDEO team to engage in early experimentation phases (phase 0 and phase 1), which were unique to IDEO. Although it could be argued that phase 0 is just about understanding everything about new client and its business and that IDEO already has such understanding due to previous relations during Palm V project, phase 0 is also about creating discoveries about marketplace. Visor’s lack of interest for market research (refer case page 12) combined with sacrifice of phase 0 means trying to develop a product that is targeted towards a broad and vague audience. Similarly, by eliminating phase 1 from the development process, IDEO will not understand the context in which the product was used and will not be able to provide continuous, distinct improvements to the prototype through constant client feedback. Such distinct and elegant improvements such as dual rail system, lithium ion batteries etc made Palm V a successful product. Thus, for above mentioned reasons, compromising on early development phases will result in a sub-optimal product and will undermine the service IDEO provides to its customers. From the point of Handspring, although it would like to push the product to many hands as early as possible, producing a product, regardless of its technical superiority, that does not solve a real customer need will bring only failures.
Second alternative is to try to persuade Handspring to postpone visor launch in order to accommodate a five phase development phases. The early phases will allow IDEO to go back to the discarded ideas from Palm V project and to revisit the issues such as battery, size, and color as well as generate more innovative ideas that could enable the same functionality through continuous prototypes and constant feedback. It will know exactly who the target audience is...
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