It’s a lot of fun & excitement to be part of a product line that is growing at a rapid rate. Some of the challenges that come with growth are related to your ability to scale. From my experience, there are several factors that need to be addressed before a product line is ready for growth:
Product complexity: Customers need to understand the product value and features that meets their needs. Complex technologies can often map into complex or difficult to use products. There must be a balance between “knobs” or features and ease-of-use. Complex products as well as multiple product configurations usually have a longer sales cycle. This is due to the challenge of seeing the product value and ensuring that “realized value” exceeds the cost of the product. Product complexity is much easier addressed early on in the development process. Modifying the product on the back-end based on customer feedback can be challenging and result in more R&D cost than anticipated.
Order fulfillment: Getting a customer order is exciting (especially those of us motivated by money). However, this area can be a major headache for the people that work to get the correct product shipped to the customer. The more automation incorporated into the order fulfillment process, the simpler it becomes. The challenge can be multiple hardware or software configurations, having insufficient check lists in place, and other elements that have a negative impact the customers’ first impression when they receive their order.
Customer Support: Complex products generally need more support. However, there are many areas that can be done pro-actively to help reduce that burden. I’m a big advocate for including some level of customer training with the product. Their experience will ultimately determine how much of it is used and it they fully realize it’s value.
Infrastructure: This is an area that tends to be looked at only when it breaks down. What works for small volumes usually will not work for higher volumes, especially when the process involves a lot of your resources. I like to start with a unified process for each component. There are several good CRM tools in the market. I have found Saleforce (www.saleforce.com) to be a very powerful tool to implement a solid, reliable infrastructure. This CRM environment can simplify your organization to create a unified environment that provides accurate information for the Business Unit Manager, Sales Managers, Support AEs, and Admin. This environment can be customized to provide information relevant to each area. In other words, you need the infrastructure that can move data into information that drives the appropriate action items to keep the business running smoothly.
There are other areas in scaling operations, but these are the ones that I have seen to cause the most problems when not addressed up front.