Does Your IT Idea Have Legs?

Entrepreneurial CIOs offer some ways to tell

By
Wed, May 25, 2011

CIOVet the idea. Although you may feel the IT product or service is a winner, you’re biased. Hire an outside market researcher to suss out potential demand from target customers. Quintiles Transnational thought it was onto something with its Infosario software and services simply based on initial reactions from existing customers. To confirm its hunch, Quintiles hired a research firm to conduct a detailed survey of target customers in the pharmaceutical industry. CIO Richard Thomas says the positive results gave the company the confidence it needed to speed up plans to launch Infosario. “It’s all very well, us calling up our friends and asking [their opinion of the product],” he says. “It’s completely different when you structure research and have an external organization ask.”

Enlist customer help. FedEx (FDX) had select customers work directly with its developers to refine SenseAware, a service that uses electronic package sensors to monitor length of time at a location, temperature and other variables packages experience in transit. Customers from the healthcare industry met with FedEx regularly to report on what they liked and didn’t like about SenseAware. Some customers said they wanted to use the data generated by SenseAware to collaborate with their own suppliers, says FedEx CIO Robert Carter. As a result, FedEx will work with customers to make that function part of SenseAware services.

Price it right. Use a market researcher to help determine the cost tolerance that potential customers have for your product or service, then factor in precise data about your expenses to produce the product. The calculation isn’t simple, mainly because IT groups often can’t pinpoint all costs, says Lynden Tennison, CIO of Union Pacific (UNP). Set up formal financial statements for the would-be commercial IT venture at least several months before the targeted launch, he recommends. Record expenses such as hardware, software and services, plus labor and other equipment. That’s a good starting point, Tennison says.

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99.

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