Successful New Product Development: Good Development Team mixed with Project Management, add some (not so) Common Sense and stir


Mike Venter, RF Ops LLC

Texas, USA


We were rushing deliveries to an important client in time for his financial year-end. Approximately 25% of the deliveries were late and incurred penalties. It was an unexpected outcome for our world-class team that has been developing similar modules, products and systems for many years. With over 30% of profits lost in penalties, a detailed post-mortem process identified the problem with our previously successful recipe for new product development.

The size of the development group has more than doubled to facilitate the new development. The roadmap required multiple product ranges sharing core functional modules. We were using centralized on-line management. We found that project scope and complexity have increased to the point where working sixteen hours a day at the end of the project could not overcome the problems caused by the large multi-project development teams and the inter-project dependencies.

Good (not common for us at the time) sense dictated the following corrective actions:

  1. Formally managing dependencies
  2. First develop high-risk and client-critical items
  3. Early customer demonstrations of functionality
  4. Improved formal project communication.

After the first year, project on-time delivery improved to over 85% with penalties approximately 3% of profits. The next year on-time delivery increased to over 95% with insignificant penalties and remained at the same levels for subsequent years.


I am a PhD qualified Electrical Engineer. For most of my career I have been involved in the development of new products. After graduation I spent two years in the South African Military Corps of Signals ending up as a Project Officer managing the implementation of a Mobile Electronic Warfare System.

Thereafter I joined a small startup company as a design engineer involved in the development of telecommunication products. I designed and developed custom hardware and software for modules, products and systems. As I gained experience I progressed through positions of greater responsibility until I became the CTO responsible for all development in the company. Later as CEO, I led the effort to optimize the company product portfolio to facilitate business growth and the expansion into new markets.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: This paper was originally presented at the 8th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2014. It is republished here with permission of the author and symposium organizers. For more about the annual UT Dallas PM Symposium, click here. 

About the Author

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Dallas, TX, USA

Mike Venter is the CEO of RF Ops LLC, a Dallas based electronic engineering design house specializing in the design and development of turnkey modules, products and systems where RF wireless operation is an important part of the functionality. He was previously CEO and CTO of Nanoteq (Pty) Ltd, a South African company specializing in the design, development and supply of custom cryptographic security modules, products and systems.

Over the last ten plus years, Mike Venter became a specialist in building and managing strong technical development teams to facilitate the efficient design, development and supply of world-class custom embedded modules, products and systems from original idea to manufacture and operational deployment.

During his career he gained experience in the following roles:

  • Project officer in the Signal Corps of the South African National Defense Force, managing the development of a mobile Electronic Warfare system
  • Investigating the viability of video conferencing systems for Telkom, the telecommunication service provider in South Africa
  • Created and lectured a post graduate course in Image Processing at the Department of Electronic Engineering at the University of Pretoria
  • While working for Siemens in Munich, Germany developed software for Digital Telephone Exchanges
  • In various development positions were involved in the development of a data modem for HF radio channels and various cryptographic security products and systems for both commercial and government clients

Mike has a BSEE, MSEE (majoring in Telecommunication and Cryptography) and a PhD in Image Processing from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He can be contacted at [email protected].