How to stop missing new product launch dates

19 Feb 2024


On-time project-delivery performance of companies that are good at new products is about 83 per cent, but for the worst performers, it is only about 20 per cent(1). This is a massive disparity and means organizations are potentially losing huge sums of ‘banked’ value and are highly likely to be launching products that do not meet business or customer expectations. To launch a new product successfully you need to be good at three things:

  1. A tight and rigorous stage-and-gate process;
  2. A Product Management Review in place to manage the total product portfolio as part of your monthly Integrated Business Planning (IBP) process;
  3. A weekly Integrated Tactical Planning (ITP) process to coordinate the execution of core plans (product, demand, and supply) inside the planning time fence (PTF), which is usually a rolling 13-week horizon(2).


Time to launch
Once a new product has evolved from a ‘fuzzy’ notion identified in strategy and  been developed through to the final ‘Full Launch Gate’, this is when the project is dropped into the ITP process at the new product PTF(3), and monitored through to execution by the ITP team. At the Full Launch Gate, plans become ‘real’ and everything needs to be ticked off and well-orchestrated to meet the launch date and ensure success thereafter in the market. The five keys to effectively leveraging ITP to manage this period, are:

  1. A must-meet time fence of “we will not launch before”, that is known and adhered to. This time is calculated via the longest lead-time items right through to having the finished goods ready for shipment or storage. This time fence should be longer than the normal ITP time fence, to allow sufficient time for the extra activities, such as supplier negotiations, and to ensure certainty of delivery times and volumes. This applies to both purchasing finished goods and materials that need to be manufactured.
  2. A dedicated product portfolio role(4) defined as part of the ITP quorum to represent the product portfolio plan. This role is vital to ensure trials, launch volumes, and sample production runs stay on plan. Without this role, it is all too easy to bump these plans because there is less familiarity with them and they often take longer to make or procure.
  3. In the excitement of launching new products, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to accelerate the final stage, without the required infrastructure and processes in place. This only leads to actions being skipped or half done and driving fundamental errors. You therefore need well managed project plans and checklists that create a countdown of activities to launch, the initial volumes, and steady-state sales.
  4. Critique at every opportunity, i.e. at every gate approval and post-launch review (PLR), and apply the critique back into process and technology. Companies are notorious for not doing PLRs or just doing them for the big projects. As the quote goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”(5) Taking a continuous-improvement lens is only half the story; yes, it stops companies repeating the failures; yes, it creates more certainty; but it also provides a structured approach to speeding up, or what the Lean methodology refers to as increasing ‘velocity’. The use of Lean Thinking and more recently the integration of agile teams has been shown to accelerate new-product launches at many multiples while still keeping control and avoiding the cost of rushing.
  5. The cross-functional project team stays together through the ‘hyper-care’ period and is only disbanded once the product reaches one of two recommended criteria: when the product breaks-even, and/or, is at the final PLR, whichever is longer. This is critical to avoid the ‘love-launch-leave” syndrome and ensures ownership of the new product until it is profitable, or a decision is made to withdraw before incurring further cost.


So, if you want to hit that pivotal launch date, include new product development as part of portfolio management within your IBP process and leverage ITP to coordinate execution of the launch. In this way, you will ensure you maximise the financial rewards, deliver full value to the business and meet customer expectations.

1. Winning at New Products, Robert Cooper, Revised and Updated Edition, 2017
2. For further information about these processes, please visit Oliver Wight Asia Pacific at
3. The new-product PTF is usually a little longer than the BAU PTF to allow for those new activities, such as securing a new supplier for a unique material.
4. In smaller companies, this may be an extension of an existing role, or be multiple full-time roles in larger companies.
5. Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense, George Santayana, 1905.

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