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NPD Process: too little or too much going on?

In the article Three Critical Considerations for Reducing Cycle Time in the Fuzzy Front End (FFE) one of the considerations cited was the need for a front end process. This article discusses the issue in more detail.So how much time and effort should be dedicated to defining or following your new product development process? Too much structure and process can slow down your time to market and possibly impinge on your team’s creativity. The penalty for moving slowly is to miss important market opportunities.

Too little structure on the other hand, can result in important missed process steps. The penalty for rushing a product through a process and cutting important corners is PRODUCT FAILURE.

Where not to Cut Corners

If your new product success is less than desirable and you’re rushing through the new product development process, the first thing you may want to ask yourself is, “Where are we cutting corners?”

According to a study conducted by Robert Cooper (Winning at New Products), the greatest deficiency in the entire new product process was a lack of a detailed market study in the pre-production phase (a.k.a fuzzy front end). Detailed market studies were omitted in three-quarters of the projects reviewed.

A detailed market study includes a user needs study, voice of the customer research, competitive analysis and an understanding of market size. Companies regularly misread customer needs; they don’t do enough field testing, and they overestimate market needs and acceptance. Companies tend to get cocky and think they know their customers when they really don’t.

These upfront activities are sorely neglected, and this is supported by Cooper’s research on spending and resource utilization. Of the new product development effort, 84% is dedicated to development and commercialization activities – Only 16% went into pre-production work.

New product development process DNA

Each company’s new product development process has a unique DNA; it depends on many factors including the capital intensity of your product, organizational culture, speed of market and the rate of technology changes, etc. Your process will also vary for product extensions, new-to-the-world products and new-to- the-company products. As you can see, there are numerous variables that help define your unique new product development process.

When you initially define your new product development process, Strategy 2 Market suggests that you first conduct a pilot. See what works and what doesn’t, and make sure you have an honest evaluation of the process at post commercialization. Implement the new product development activities that work best for your company. It doesn’t stop there – be prepared to assess and modify your process on an on-going basis since continuous improvement is key.

If you currently have a new product development process, and you’re wondering if it is maximized, you may want to start with a new product development process assessment that helps define your areas of strengths and weaknesses. Based on best practices, this assessment will help identify gaps and support the development of a new product process that ushers in successful new products.

For more information, please contact us.