Saturday, April 25, 2009

Without Wind

Launching a new range of products is like going through the entire process of making a baby, expecting one, labouring for one and finally looking after the baby during its infancy. It is almost as if you were playing the part of the expecting parent, as a he or she where applicable.

Before launching a product, you have to sit down with the key stakeholders of your company to discuss the prospect and feasibility of this launch and the planning involved in all related functions. Topics that are commonly touched are the launch timing, market positioning, competitors, financials, demand and supply planning. It is just like the forethought that a couple has before deciding to make a baby - the timing, financial aspects and supportability of this endeavour all comes into consideration. It is what we like to call prudent thinking.

Once all plans are finalized and management has given the project a go-ahead, the execution begins. Demands are forecasted, supply planning begins, marketing initiatives are conceptualized and new product development is initiated. Very much like the conception of the baby in the womb of the mother.

When pregnancy is confirmed a couple of months later, preparation for the birth of the baby begins. This is reminiscent of what happens when trade plans are confirmed, the artwork and formulation of the product finalized and approved and production planning begins. It is like what we do in anticipation of the baby coming into our life - seeking professional counsel in clinics or hospitals for mothers-to-be, shopping for the baby cot or the clothings, and preparing that heavenly baby room in the house.

Strange enough, the entire process of a new product launch spans approximately 9 months as well just like the pregnancy of a mother. What is even more uncanny is that the nearer the timeline of the launch approaches, the more complexity in the project arrises just like the more frequent contraction of the mother's womb when her expecting date looms nearer.

Finally when the baby is due, Murphy's Law kicks into full swing and anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The baby's expected dates are never exact and sometimes they are born earlier or later. In severe cases, giving birth may be a problem and the mother has to opt for a caesarian instead. In some instances, the place where the labouring takes place is not even planned. Similarly with the launch timing of a new product where sometimes it has to be deferred to a later date due to supply issues or moved forward due to business needs related to competition. Sometimes it is so critical that the products itself has to be airfreight from the sourcing site to meet the timeline - this to me is what I call 'pulling a caesarian' on a new product launch.

But after all the months and months of hardwork and planning, the product is finally launched and everyone in the team can breathe a sigh of relief, but only temporarily. It is like the calm before the next storm. You still have to monitor the sales and the market offtake. Perform a litmus test on the project to see if the demand captured was correct, how is the product doing at the consumer level and whether the launch is going according to plan. It is like that first moment when you hold the new born baby in your arms, checking if he/she has all 10 fingers and toes, ensuring if the baby can see and hear and cry.

Some weeks and months later, you still have to go back to the clinic for a follow-up check on the health of the baby. If there are any problems detected, the doctor will give advice and treatment accordingly for those less-fortunate babies to ensure every fighting chance of survival is given to the baby. It is no different with the new product. Every month the management will review its performance. Forecasts are adjusted accordingly until it reflects the true demand, consumer behaviour towards the product are still monitored and supplies are managed diligently to maintain an optimum level of inventory.

The rest, they say is history...

The milestones of the launch are like the milestones of the birth. We always look at the sales target achieved, market share obtained, brand equity developed and customer service level maintained but little do we realize it is like looking at our baby taking the first step, uttering the first word, going to school and so forth.

Be it a successful launch or not, it will always be our baby and it is love unconditional. It is what we all here go through day-in and day-out. When I look at it again, I see the irony of what we already do in our work with that of our lives, in the backdrop of a baby company. It is priceless.

It is never easy what we do as we are all very different people with different background and different mandate in the company. But we all strive to achieve the same goals. For me, it is about learning to adapt and meet everyone halfway. Deep down inside, I think the failure to launch maybe the single most valuable experience I can take away from this when it all finally comes to an end.

I cannot change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. I am almost there now finally...

But a constant question remains at the back of my mind - what if there was no wind to begin with?


★ whoaamello ★ said...

LOL! I like the comparison! =D You write so well.

Rabbit's Fewt said...

"the milestones of the launch are like the milestones of the birth"

you make it sound so simple and beautiful =) you do realize your writing here oozes passion and satisfaction all over it. it's a sign of good thing. i am happy for u.

if there is no wind to begin with, you can always try swimming towards your destination :)

Han said...

Thanks, HAHA! The resemblance was just RIGHT there for me to see, couldn't have miss it, irony of working in a baby company, LOL!

Rabbit's Fewt:
Passion and satisfaction? Haha! Maybe a little of both lar but I don't think it is oozing with it lor. Sigh. Don't be too happy for me yet. Swimming towards my destination? I'd probably die halfway through - I am not Beowulf, k! LOL!

Amoeba said...

eh not bad a post there. so this is what you do in your company la? very interesting. one day must find time to ask u more, hehe. beats what i do in mine anyday la.

★ whoaamello ★ said...

Irony? Or... divine connection? LOL. BTW, I can't stand that Kate Perry song and Hot & Cold (for some MYSTERIOUS reason kan - pfft.)

悦子 said...

great ya!

wei han....

you so master in writing skill to present 2 matters.

btw, if without wind appears, then maybe we got to search for replacement

Han said...

Yalar, it's REALLY a LONG time since we last catch up. Took you about 1 year later to know what is it I am doing now in my company, HAHA! C'mon, we're in different industries, how to compare which one is better? :)

Divine connection? Wahh, damn profound...I love it! Haha! You just don't like Hot & Cold or Thinking of You also? Cuz I don't quite like the former but love the latter.

Thank you very much...ahaha. I just write what's on my mind when I see something that is so obvious right in front of me, nothing so masterful to speak of :P But at least you enjoyed it and know what I do also, haha! Yes, definitely must think of a replacement or an alternative...the question is, WHAT? =)

Rabbit's Fewt said...

Hahaha! of course u r NOT Beowulf....not in a million yrs, ROFL! i used swimming as a metaphor, since ur so good with that, and thought u might catch that ;) now u know what I mean.

Han said...

LOL! Wah, no need to char me till lidet kua ;) Okok, guess I was kinda slow catching your so-called metaphor...OR...I was maybe just being subtly sarcastic to you? Hahahaha!

BeDLamSort said...

I must say that this is a nice composition...enjoyed the comparison you were trying to is a nice read :)

Amy said...

hey there. what industry are you in? consumer? prof. services? I share everyone's comments here that the comparison you were making is very good. Plus you're in a baby company? hahahha!

such a hassle launching new products! :) but seeing the end results i trust is gratifying? exactly like parents looking at their babies! cheers~

Han said...

Wow...just like back in the old days huh? Writing compositions in school during English class. Haha! That's a word I haven't heard in a long time ;) Glad it was a good read for you.

I'm in FMCG - consumer, you are right :) And it's a baby company! It's called 'jodoh' or 'yun fan' or divine connection, LOL! Yeah, I guess the end results is gratifying? I won't really know until I've gone through the next few weeks.

Lian said...

HAHAHAHHAHAHA!Like pulling a caesarian on a new product lunch! Omg!!! This is so original, LOL!! U are really good man, hehhe.

Lian said...

oopsie! i meant launch not lunch :P lol!even this IS funny.

Ryan & Vivian said...

Nice write-up buddy!
Being involved in marketing line myself, I couldn't agree more on your description about the pre-launch/post-launch process.

The only thing that make this piece of yours stood out among other marketing articles I've read is that you translate it into such beautiful, graceful words.


Han said...

Hahahah! You ARE funny, wei! Yeah, I can't believe how I even thought of that but come to think of it, it is aptly named, right? ROFL! Damn, product lunch...that's a good one too ;)

Foolehmak! Pagi-pagi dah dapat komen yang cukup bernas dan memberangsangkan daripada awak ;) Thanks lah dude! Haha, damn encouraging words there...glad you could relate to it and found it a good read too. Totally forgot you were in this line too, man!

Btw, Glory Glory! It's gonna be our season again *chanting* the Reds go marching on, ON, ON!

Kelly said...

This post is WOW! it is so interesting you got me glued to every sentence, wanting to know what happens nxt. Like reading a story.... really, really good perspective and comparison with the birth of babies.

Han said...

It's happening TODAY! And this week! Thanks for your lovely comments, a "good read" for me in the morning of the actual day this is happening :)

cindy said...

hey....i couldn't believe what i've read ;) I knew u write well (VERY well) BUT i didn't know u can relate so well to d whole process of motherhood without even having to go through one or at least witness one personally. im beginning to wonder if timothy zahn writes about all this in ur favourite book of star wars...haha...totally enjoyed reading this article. By the way, glad u delivered ur baby (d new product launch) via caesarean section!

Han said...

Don't really know how to answer you there :) Working in a baby company does help a little, I guess, haha! What?! Zahn definitely does not write these sort of stuff, although he IS a great writer :) Pheeeww! Delivery was successful, all 10 babies are fine and healthy although 4 had to went thru C-section :P Man!!!

日月神教-向左使 said...