Project Management

Recipe for Product Innovation

Andrew Dolvig

Changing an iconic product can be perilous. Think New Coke. But sometimes change is necessary. From assessing the business case to implementation, here is a look at how a manufacturing giant used a fundamental project management approach to minimize risk when it sought to modify its most popular products.

Don’t mess with success, so the saying goes. But a global food and beverage company dared do just that. By switching a key ingredient in its flagship products, the taste that consumers loved would remain the same — in theory — but the change would save the company tens of millions of dollars each year.

It was a risky move, entailing first-of-its-kind technology, enormous capital outlay and worldwide tech transfer — with no guarantee that consumers would approve.

A project management approach, while not assuring product success, enabled the company to make fact-based decisions every step of the way.

Phase 1: Assess the business case

Before sinking millions of dollars into the overhaul, was it really worth it? On the plus side, the payoff would be huge. Because the new ingredient was far less complex for suppliers to manufacture, it would cost half as much to buy as the original. Moreover, it was widely available, so suppliers would be willing to haggle on price; the original ingredient was “custom.” Though the company had to acquire sophisticated new …

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