It's that time of year when bicycle season begins in the northern hemisphere, and bike sales heat up right along with the weather. For companies like Trek Bicycle, it's a critical time of year. Because the cycling market is largely seasonal, its critical to get new products to market on time.
Until recently, that was a challenge for Trek. Responsibility for on-time product launches was spread out among functions including product management, engineering, industrial design, and marketing and around the world from company headquarters in Waterloo, Wisc., to Germany, Holland, China, and Taiwan. And — quite literally — no one was on the same page.
Each group had their own set of preferred tools, from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides to Word. Updates travelled by email, phone, word of mouth, or — sometimes — not at all.
Individual projects managers — often product engineers who begrudgingly took on the role in addition to their full-time job designing bikes and related gear — spent as much as a third of their time manually retyping timeline items from one system or another into emails to send out to team members or cobbling together reports for executives. Teams were forced to attend staff meetings several times a week in an attempt to keep abreast of project statuses.
The lack of visibility resulted in missing time-sensitive go-to-market dates for a significant percentage of Trek products. Not knowing when a new product — quite possibly a replacement for an existing item — would land could result in excess inventory and increased discounting — or lack of inventory. Marketing and sales groups weren't able to effectively plan promotions and events. And when a hot new product didn't make it to retailers on time, Trek missed sales opportunities.
"All of our miscommunication cost Trek a lot of money," says Kris Lamp, a decade-long Trek veteran. But given the lack of shared information, no one is quite sure what percentage of new products were delivered late or their actual impact on revenue. "The information was in so many different places it was hard to get a good view of how our teams were performing," Lamp says.
New SaaS Program Management Tool Puts Teams on the Same Page
A few years ago, Lamp took on the newly created role of program manager and began looking for a single system that all employees involved in new product development could use. "We needed to have a tool that allowed us to all see the same thing at the same time, wherever we are in the world," Lamp says. She was looking for one that was user friendly enough that users could see what they needed in seconds, freeing them up from administrative tasks to focus on more important development and innovation work.
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