A good NPDS can help organize research, prioritize customer needs, and reduce cost overruns, to ensure a smooth development process.
Describe the three common approaches to strategically developing new products
- Three common approaches to NPDS are user-centered design, flexible product development, and the phase-gate model. There are many other approaches used as well, and what approach to use depends on the nature of the management, the product, and the market.
- User-centered design emphasizes the wants, desires and limitations of the end-user in designing how to develop the product.
- Flexible product development emphasizes a flexible development process, instead of focusing on users as user-centered design does. By making the process as flexible as possible, necessary changes can take place very late in the development process with minimum disruption.
- The phase-gate model separates the different phases by using “gates”–at each gate, a steering committee uses all available information to decide whether to proceed with the development process or not.
- user-centered design: A new product development strategy where the needs of the end users are given the most attention.
- flexible product development: A new product development strategy designed so that changes can be made late in the process without excessive disruption.
- Phase-gate model: A new product development strategy that is divided into phases, separated by gates.
New Product Development Strategy
A well thought out new product development strategy (NPDS) helps a company avoid wasting time and resources by helping to organize planning and research, understanding customer expectations, and accurately resourcing the project. By avoiding common errors such as overestimating the target market, incorrectly setting the price, and accruing higher than predicted costs, a NPDS helps the product to be developed and launched as planned.
The nature of the business and the product in question will determine the NPDS, and what steps need to be taken. Certain steps may be iterated as needed, and others may be eliminated. To speed up the process, many companies complete several steps at the same time (known as “time to market”). For some more complicated products, a large amount of uncertainty makes it impossible to plan the complete project before starting it, and thus a flexible approach is required.
There are many different ways to approaching NPDS. Some of the more common ways are described below.
User-Centered Design (UCD)
Here, the needs, wants and limitations of end users of a product are given a great deal of attention at each stage of the design process. The main element in this process is that user-centered design tries to optimize the product around how users can, want, or need to use the product, rather than forcing users to change their behaviors to accomodate the product.
Flexible Product Development
Flexible product development is the ability to make changes in the product being developed or in how it is developed, even relatively late in development, without being too disruptive. Flexibility is important because the development of a new product naturally involves change from what came before it. Change can be expected in what the customer wants and how the customer might use the product, in how competitors might respond, and in the new technologies being applied in the product or in its manufacturing process. The more innovative a new product is, the more likely it is that the development team will have to make changes during development.
Flexible development counteracts the tendencies of many contemporary management approaches to plan a project completely at its outset and discourage change thereafter. These include Six Sigma, which aims to drive variation out of a process; Lean, which acts to drive out waste; and traditional project management and phased development systems (including the popular Phase–gate model, discussed next), which encourage upfront planning and following the plan. Although these methodologies have strengths, their side effect is encouraging rigidity in a process that needs flexibility to be effective, especially for truly innovative products. Flexibility techniques must be used with discretion, for instance, only in the portions of a product likely to undergo change, in order to minimize potential disruptions, delays, and cost overruns.
In a phase–gate model, also referred to as a phase–gate process, the process is divided into stages or phases, separated by gates. At each gate, the continuation of the process is decided by (typically) a manager or a steering committee. The decision is based on the information available at the time, including the business case, risk analysis, and availability of necessary resources (e.g., money, people with correct competencies). The phase–gate model may also be known as stage-limited commitment or creeping commitment.