Bringing a successful product to market is a team effort. While designers are responsible for usability, utility and the rest of the user experience there are many factors which contribute to the success or failure of new product development and many of these are outside of the designer’s direct control.
The figure above shows the main factors which contribute to new product development success as promoted by Gonzales and Palacios in 2002:
- Knowledge Management
- Market Orientation
- New Product Development Process
- New Product Development Speed
- New Product Development Strategies
- New Product Development Teams
- Top Management Support
Let’s take a look at each of those factors and see how much responsibility a designer can take for them and how much lays elsewhere.
Top Management Support
At first glance, this appears to be completely out of control of the design team. After all, top managers make the decision as to what to support and what not to support right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The support of top management is critical to a project’s success. Without that support, budget or resources are not likely to be granted to the project and it may not get the priority it needs within the business as a while. However, while the design team cannot force management to support their projects they can develop the political savvy to persuade management to support the best projects.
Learning to influence managers is a critical skill for design teams. Embarking on projects without managerial support is a recipe for failure but winning over support is a question of leadership and communication.
Author/Copyright holder: SuperJet International. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
Investopedia defines market orientation as follows: “Market orientation is a company philosophy focused on discovering and meeting the needs and desires of its customers through its product mix.”
It seems reasonable to suggest that while a design team does not have control over company philosophy it should be in a good position to influence this. Conducting user research and where appropriate market research – two fundamentals of developing high quality user experiences; will enable the discovery of customer/user needs and how to meet them.
The technology used to create and deliver the product must be suitable for the market. While it is unlikely that the design team will have the final say in technology budgets or appropriation it is likely that they will be able to influence the development teams in their choice of technology.
It is clear that, for example, multi-million dollar hardware and software requirements will make a product inaccessible to the consumer market but may not be an insurmountable hurdle for government or corporate markets.
Technology must be chosen with the end-users in mind.
In many organizations today; knowledge is treated like gold dust and guarded by its owners as they would stolen treasure. Unfortunately, the creation of knowledge silos like these makes it impossible for knowledge to be effective.
Market research data, for example, can be incredibly useful to a design team but only if they can access that data and it’s not kept securely in the marketing department under lock and key. Likewise user research data can be highly valuable to the marketing team but once again – only if they can access it.
Knowledge management structures will normally fall outside of the design team’s remit. However, there is nothing preventing the design team from advocating for open knowledge management structures or indeed persuading senior management to support such structures.
Author/Copyright holder: Abottineau. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
New Product Development Strategies
Strategy, despite the way it is often abused in management speak is simply; “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.”
Responsibility for new product development strategies is likely to be shared between design, product management and development. This means that the design team will have some input into the strategies chosen and will be able to influence these strategies with their user research to guide the strategy to fit the needs of their users. It is probably fair to say that product management will normally have the final say on a strategic direction but designers have plenty of room to negotiate with product managers to ensure better outcomes.
New Product Development Speed
Speed to market is a critical factor in success. If your new product development process takes 5 years but your competitor’s takes 2 years – it is likely that no matter how good your designs are; they will have been eclipsed by the time they get to market.
Refining the design process to maximize speed whilst protecting the user experience is a delicate balancing act and it is fully within the designer’s remit. However, the development process speed is much less likely to be within the design team’s control and their ability to influence that speed may be marginal at best.
New Product Development Process
Having clear processes for design and development are essential. While these may be tailored to fit specific circumstances – a methodology for working that is clearly understood and agreed to by all members of the product development team is highly likely to product better results than those created with no formal process.
The design team will, normally, have some input into these processes and be able to negotiate modifications to processes when they fail to produce optimal results. There is little control for the design team over the way other teams execute these processes. Failure in execution, from other teams, is one of the few areas where it is reasonable to say that failure was completely outside of the design team’s control.
Author/Copyright holder: Freeformer. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
New Product Development Teams
New product development normally brings together teams of diverse people from all across an enterprise. It is strongly suggested that these diverse teams tend to be highly creative and more successful than teams of a more standardized nature.
The way teams work together is a critical factor in their success and designers operating as part of such a team have their part to play in this. Professionalism and leadership can be displayed by any member of a team (including those without official leadership and management roles) and while the design team cannot bear any responsibility for the actions of others within a team – they bear complete responsibility for their own actions.
As Michael Jordan, the world famous athlete and basketball superstar says; “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”
The Take Away
Not every factor of success for a new product development project is directly within the design team’s remit. However, in the majority of cases the design team will have the ability to influence these factors and play a strong role in ensuring that the project is given the greatest possible chance of success.
The 8 key factors involved in new product development are Knowledge Management, Market Orientation, New Product Development Process, New Product Development Speed, New Product Development Strategies, New Product Development Teams, Technology and Top Management Support.
Investopedia definition - http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/market-orientation.asp
GONZáLEZ, F. J. M. & PALACIOS, T. M. B. (2002) The effect of new product development techniques on new product success in Spanish firms. Industrial Marketing Management 31, 261-271
This post was ranked #1 innovation blog post among 40+ innovation bloggers for 2013.
Every entrepreneur knows that productivity is one of the key ingredients for successful product development. One of the two key processes in Robert's Rules of Innovation is the New Product Development Process. A formalized, NPD process -- also referred to and best practice: the Stage Gate Process -- is a must, from simple to sophisticated.
The New Product Development process is often referred to as The Stage-Gate innovation process, developed by Dr. Robert G. Cooper as a result of comprehensive research on reasons why products succeed and why they fail.
When teams collaborate in developing new innovations, having the following eight ingredients mixed into your team's new product developmental repertoire will ensure that it's overall marketability will happen relatively quick, and accurately -- making everyone productive across the board.
Step 1: Generating
Utilizing basic internal and external SWOT analyses, as well as current marketing trends, one can distance themselves from the competition by generating ideologies which take affordability, ROI and widespread distribution costs into account.
Lean, mean and scalable are the key points to keep in mind. During the NPD process, keep the system nimble and use flexible discretion over which activities are executed. You may want to develop multiple versions of your road map scaled to suit different types and risk levels of projects.
Step 2: Screening the Idea
Wichita, possessing more aviation industry than most other states, is seeing many new innovations stop with Step two screening. Do you go/no go? Set specific criteria for ideas that should be continued or dropped. Stick to the agreed upon criteria so poor projects can be sent back to the idea-hopper early on.
Because product development costs are being cut in areas like Wichita, "prescreening product ideas," means taking your top three competitors' new innovations into account, how much market share they're chomping up, what benefits end consumers could expect etc. An interesting industry fact: Aviation industrialists will often compare growth with metals markets; therefore, when Boeing is idle, never assume that all airplanes are grounded, per se.
Step 3: Testing the Concept
As Gaurav Akrani has said, "Concept testing is done after idea screening." And it is important to note, it is different from test marketing.
Aside from patent research, design due diligence, and other legalities involved with new product development, knowing where the marketing messages will work best is often the biggest part of testing the concept. Does the consumer understand, need or want the product or service?
Step 4: Business Analytics
During the New Product Development process, build a system of metrics to monitor progress. Include input metrics, such as average time in each stage, as well as output metrics that measure the value of launched products, percentage of new product sales and other figures that provide valuable feedback. It is important for an organization to be in agreement for these criteria and metrics.
Even if an idea doesn't turn into product, keep it in the hopper because it can prove to be a valuable asset for future products and a basis for learning and growth.
Step 5: Beta/Marketability Tests
Arranging private tests groups, launching beta versions, and then forming test panels after the product or products have been tested will provide you with valuable information allowing last minute improvements and tweaks. Not to mention helping to generate a small amount of buzz. Wordpress is becoming synonymous with beta testing, and it's effective. Thousands of programmers contribute code, millions test it, and finally even more download the completed end-product.
Step 6: Technicalities and Product Development
Provided the technical aspects can be perfected without alterations to post-beta products, heading towards a smooth Step seven is imminent.
According to Akrani, in this step, "The production department will make plans to produce the product. The marketing department will make plans to distribute the product. The finance department will provide the finance for introducing the new product".
As an example, in manufacturing, the process before sending technical specs to machinery involves printing MSDS sheets, a requirement for retaining an ISO 9001 certification (the organizational structure, procedures, processes and resources needed to implement quality management).
In internet jargon, honing the technicalities after beta testing involves final database preparations, estimation of server resources, and planning automated logistics. Be sure to have your technicalities in line when moving forward.
Step 7: Commercialize
At this stage, your new product developments have gone mainstream, consumers are purchasing your good or service, and technical support is consistently monitoring progress. Keeping your distribution pipelines loaded with products is an integral part of this process too, as one prefers not to give physical (or perpetual) shelf space to competition. Refreshing advertisements during this stage will keep your product's name firmly supplanted into the minds of those in the contemplation stages of purchase.
Step 8: Post Launch Review and Perfect Pricing
Review the NPD process efficiency and look for continues improvements. Most new products are introduced with introductory pricing, in which final prices are nailed down after consumers have "gotten in." In this final stage, you'll gauge overall value relevant to COGS (cost of goods sold), making sure internal costs aren't overshadowing new product profits. You continuously differentiate consumer needs as your products age, forecast profits and improve delivery process whether physical, or digital, products are being perpetuated.
Remember: The Process Is Loose.
The entire new product development process is an ever-evolving testing platform where errors will be made, designs will get trashed, and loss could be recorded. Having your entire team working in tight synchronicity will ensure the successful launch of goods or services, even if reinventing your own wheel. Productivity during product development can be achieved if, and only if, goals are clearly defined along the way and each process has contingencies clearly outlined on paper.
Stage-Gate® is a registered TM of Stage Gate International, Inc.
This post originally appeared on InnovationExcellence.com.
Follow Robert F. Brands on Twitter: www.twitter.com/innovationrules