What is S-Curve Mapping, and what are best practices, tools and online templates for teams and organizations?
Definition of S-Curve Mapping
S-Curve Mapping is the process used to identify the different phases of evolution of a product, service, or business process to identify innovation opportunities for competitive advantage. S-curve maps plot product or industry performance along the axes of time and performance. The model can be used to determine how mature and established an organization is within the industry or how well-developed the industry is itself.
Description of S-Curve Mapping
An S-Curve Map is comprised of two S-shaped curves. The location of a product or industry on the S-curve can be used to infer the potential risks and opportunities that can arise when either entering the industry with a new product or using products already on the market. Broadly, this model assumes the products and industries follow a life cycle that consists of development, growth and eventual decline. In line with this assumption, the four phases on the S-curve are Incubate, Scale, Maturity and Discontinuity.
The S-Curve contains four major phases. An innovative product or service will go through these phases in this order:
Incubate. This phase describes products or an industry that is completely new and innovative. Organizations in this phase are in fierce competition to establish a dominant position in the market before the market becomes too established. In order to assure top-billing, organizations spend a lot of their time and effort researching and developing their products so that they are the best offered. This stage is located at the bottom of the S-shape as there is only a small amount of growth
Scale. In this phase, the product or industry has established its design or business model. In addition, the product or industry has proven to fulfill the needs of the market and is now gaining customer adoption. This phase is placed in the middle of the S-shape because it is characterized by hypergrowth, mass production and increasing market demand.
Maturity. A product or industry in this phase has reached the plateau of market acceptance. The product is well-established and widely used. Because of industry growth and the number of competitors, organizations usually spend time and money on improving their products or reducing their cost. Very incremental changes are made when it comes to innovation. As such, this stage is located in the peak of the S-curve as there is very little growth during this time.
Discontinuity. As prior products or older industries reach their peak, there is opportunity for new ideas to take shape, which is where innovation occurs. This stage is considered to be “disruptive” as opportunities arise for new product appeal, new market segments or new technologies to work with. This stage is located at the bottom of the second S (which is higher than the first S to reflect upward growth), and essentially restarts the four steps. It is advisable for all organizations to continuously be looking for succeeding S-curves as that is where the most space for innovation and development exists.
Tools & Templates
An S-Curve Map should be a visual representation of the life cycle of an industry, product or technology. Some specific tools and template that can be used to guide your team through mapping your S-curve and moving through the phases using innovation include Discovery Driven Planning, Lean Startup, or Rapid Prototyping.
upBOARD's Online S-Curve Mapping Tools & Templates
Unlike most traditional S-Curve Mapping techniques, upBOARD’s online S-Curve Mapping collaboration tools allow any team or organization to instantly begin working with our web templates and input forms. Our digital platform goes far beyond other software tools by including progress dashboards, data integration from existing documents or other SaaS software, elegant intuitive designs, and full access on any desktop or mobile device.
Learn more about upBOARD’s library of other innovation management online best practice tools and templates, including:
Agile Innovation Process, Business Case Development, Business Model Canvas, Concept Development, Concept Screening, Concept Testing, Customer Empathy Map, Customer Problem Statements, Design Thinking, Innovation Funnel Management Process, Innovation Horizons Model, Innovation Roadmap, Jobs to be Done, Lean Startup, Listening Hats, Open Innovation Process, Painstorming, Rapid Prototyping, SCAMPER, S-Curve Mapping, Stage Gate Process, Technology Life Cycle, Technology Scouting, and Teece’s Win-Lose Innovation Model.