Everyone is looking for the next great product, a game-changer that transforms the marketplace. It may seem like these ideas come from moments of lightning-strike inspiration, but the truth is that innovative companies have teams and processes that deliberately cultivate great new products.
New product development is an established process, with specific steps and methods every step of the way. And every phase of new product development is driven by trained specialists who know how to bring great ideas to market. Let’s take a closer look at new product development and the people that make it possible.
The Product Development Process
Of course new products start with great ideas. Great ideas come from a variety of sources, including competitor challenges, customer feedback, and employee suggestions. Some of the crucial roles in idea generation include:
- R&D: R&D engineers, scientists, and technologists are constantly exploring new methods and materials, and often make discoveries that have the potential to become new products.
- NPD strategists: Companies may direct NPD from a strategic position, looking for ideas that are focused on certain areas and align with company objectives.
Studies show that most successful new product ideas come from marketing departments and/or from customers themselves, so it’s important to consider the needs of the end user from the very beginning.
Not all ideas are good ones. Ideas need to be screened, to eliminate less promising avenues and focus on ideas with the most potential. Ideas are typically evaluated against:
Process analysts: Ideas are evaluated by feasibility, estimating their cost to produce, resources required, and other considerations. Some ideas are eliminated due to this analysis, and the strongest ideas are allowed to move forward.
During concept testing, the original idea is further developed into a more specific product. The most important, time consuming part of this phase is market research. Potential customers are invited to give feedback on the concept, validating whether the product has a path to market. The NPD team receives a huge volume of feedback during this stage, and changes to the idea need to be continually re-evaluated against strategic and process criteria.
While sometimes overlooked, this is also the phase when it is important to do a wide range of legal research. Companies need to research relevant patents and trademarks,
During this phase, business analysts evaluate ideas to determine their potential performance, accounting for factors like strategic value, competition, market positioning, and other criteria. Ideas that measure up on both metrics are ideas worth pursuing.
The most successful new products are the ones with the strongest business case, and smart companies return to business analysis at every phase of development, ensuring that new products continue to meet these important metrics.
Product development is a critical phase, and consumes nearly a third of total NPD expenditures. Selected ideas are developed into prototypes, and business plans are translated into concrete deliverables. At this stage, crucial team members work closely together, because marketing and R&D departments need to stay aligned. To help bring the idea into reality and ensure continual collaboration between departments, the concept is managed by:
- Program managers: Program managers work to oversee several different projects and products that complement each other to move toward organizational objectives. They ensure that entire programs and product lines meet strategic business goals.
- Product/project managers: Product and/or project managers work on one specific project at a time. A product manager is responsible for the product roadmap, from feature definition to marketing and forecasting. They span tactical and strategic roles, intersecting with engineers, scientists, technologists, along with marketing, sales, and support teams.
Product development can take years, and there is a risk that the marketplace or consumer demand may shift during this phase. Because this phase is so expensive and time-consuming, many companies seek to keep it as short as possible, streamlining the process from idea to product launch.
Truthfully, many NPD teams return to testing again and again throughout the development process, ensuring that features meet customer expectations, and measuring its value for the consumer. Testing and validation drive key decisions as products are made. Testing also generates useful quantifiable results for ongoing business analysis.
While market research is the most visible part of this phase, it’s important to remember that testing is also continually undertaken within a company. Brands test their own products to ensure that it meets the brand’s expectations for performance, design, and quality.
Finally, product managers need to continually ensure that any feedback received during the testing process is actionable by suppliers. Final testing and validation of a product also includes testing and validation of the supply chain.
In theory, this is the end of the NPD process. Not only has the product been designed and created, but the accompanying supply chain and distribution methods have also been designed. The marketing and sales strategies have been developed and validated. Now, all that needs to happen is that all these systems scale up to put the product on the shelves.
While this is the standard NPD process and the crucial team members that bring products to life, there are different approaches to new product development. FMCG companies often use the Stage-gate NPD model, and companies that use this model report shorter development times, more successful products, and even improved team cohesion. Other companies may use Lean or Six Sigma product development processes.
As you can see, bringing a new product to life requires a huge range of skills and specializations. Scientists, technologists, and researchers work with project managers, marketers, and business analysts to make something new. Along the way, everyone from marketing and regulatory to quality, supply chain, packaging designers, have to contribute. Grapefrute has a deep understanding of NPD and the innovative teams that make it work, so if you are looking for the best NPD talent in Europe, contact us today.