However, by Mid Oct. 2014 UWCI’s sales reps were noticing increasing customer demand for satellite imagery like Boilermaker. Zac Phillips, vice-president of sales, began pressing for a reversal of the decision not to develop the product. “It’s embarrassing to have no answers for our retailers when they ask for our version of this,” he said. “Look at it from our perspective. We’ve changed the compensation plan for the whole Sales team—including me—so we take a real hit if we don’t reach our sales targets. Customers now want something different, and I can’t tell my reps we have no plans to develop the product they need to hit those targets.” In response to these repeated requests, UWCI’s president, Sam Hook, changed his mind on satellite imagery, if only to satisfy the “gadget” appeal of such an innovation. The initiative was dubbed Project Big Fish. In order to speed development and avoid the costs of new moldings and major reconfiguration, the team decided to redesign within the existing Under Water Camera platform.
Shortly after making the decision to proceed with project Big Fish, Hook and Phillips met with Jake Smith, director of design & development. Smith brought his key managers to the meeting: Clark Miu, who oversaw the software and firmware, and Rosie Stevens, who managed hardware design.
SAM Hook: Jake, we’re obviously in a hurry to get to market. But we don’t want something slapped together – let’s make sure we get this product completely right the first time. Our reputation for quality is paramount.
JAKE SMITH: Understood. Are we including all the same features that we have in our current underwater camera line?
ZAC PHILLIPS: Yes. We plan to offer Big Fish at approximately a $50 retail premium to the current top-of-the-line Under Water Cameras, so it’s important to maintain the same high-end functionality.
JAKE SMITH: What about speed? Satellite imagery requires a lot of processing power, so without some serious juicing, Big Fish might run slower than you’d like.
ZAC PHILLIPS: I think we’ll be okay there, Jake. Our consumers are tech-savvy—they know there’s an inherent trade-off to get more sophisticated graphics.
As the meeting ended, Smith indicated that they would have to do some careful planning to keep costs as low as possible, but he was sure the product design could be completed by year’s end. At that point, they could hand it off to production to develop detailed cost estimates, which would allow the sales team, in consultation with finance, to determine pricing and develop a go-to-market plan. Given the manufacturing lead-time, UWCI expected to get Big Fish to stores by the 2014 holiday season.
The product development team members did not greet the Big Fish decision with enthusiasm. First, they felt that a redesign of the total platform—including firmware, external case, internal components, and TFT (thin-film transistor) display—was feasible if management could extend time to market by six more months; the resulting product would be superior and the project would be more stimulating technically to the team members. Second, they had several other ideas for new products that they believed would position UWCI to capitalize on growth in outdoors market with different applications of the Existing underwater camera, and Project Big Fish was forcing them to put aside these more exciting projects. Finally, with company co-founder Frank Wabash preparing for retirement, Smith was eager to prove his readiness to be the next VP of design & development. The Big Fish project impeded his building of a product line he could truly call his own.