When New Product Development (NPD) fails, it’s often in either the last or commercial stage of the development process. However, these late-stage failures can most often be traced to the beginning stage or the front end of NPD. The front end begins when an organization recognizes that an opportunity lies within an idea and ends with the approval or disapproval of a proposed project. More than any other phase of the product development process, the front end exhibits a dynamic and interactive nature, characterized by:
- The need for complex information processing
- Ad hoc decision-making
- Conflicting organizational pressures
- High degrees of complexity and uncertainty
These elements contribute to volatility during the earlier stages of NPD, increasing the likelihood of mistakes, delays, and communication breakdowns that can eventually result in product failure. The good news is that these challenges can be overcome by using best practices for managing the front end of NPD.
At Pivot International, we bring nearly fifty years of experience in NPD and have developed systematic processes and practices for fortifying every phase of the product development process. By leveraging comprehensive systems and solutions for optimizing product design, development, manufacture, and distribution, Pivot has established itself as a global leader that helps companies worldwide bring award-winning products successfully to market.
Here are five front-end practices that must be deployed to vouchsafe the early stages of NPD and ensure a profitable outcome.
1. Achieve a Shared Definition of Success
Research shows that the ability to manage the front end of NPD necessitates the creation of a robust product definition that outlines in great detail what success will look like, along with metrics for assessing and corroborating this success. A product definition functions as a statement and common point of reference for achieving a set of specific and highly integrated goals. A robust product definition must meet the following criterion:
- Be clear, stable, and unambiguous
- Has passed business and feasibility analysis
- Includes product concepts (consisting of a description of underlying technologies, statements on customer benefits and evaluations of market opportunities, as well as analyses of market positioning, competitors and alignments with existing business plans)
2. Seek a Collaborative NPD Partner
External partners can assist in the front end of NPD. A carefully vetted supplier, for example, can reduce technological uncertainty. Effective supplier cooperation can decrease time-to-market, reduce development costs, and improve product quality. At Pivot, we take a broad perspective on the value chain at the front end of NPD to acquire useful input for concept development.
3. Align General Business Strategy With NPD
Alignment between NPD and strategy highlights the need for firms to engage in product portfolio planning. For example, firms need to strategically think when planning an optimal mix of product attributes that meet customers’ wants and needs.
The alignment of an organization’s NPD with its general business strategy is a critical front-end success factor. Companies that use their core competencies in front-end projects are better able to keep their business strategies on point and in focus.
4. Enlist Cross-Functional Cooperation
Cross-functional cooperation is critical to front-end success. It benefits task analysis, reduces uncertainty, enhances communication, promotes idea diversity, and brings greater stringency to idea evaluation and selection.
Manufacturing and process design, for instance, should cooperate to assure the feasibility of manufacturing proposed products. Both R&D and marketing, for example, benefit from collaboration, with each taking responsibility for product concept and product definition and sharing this information company-wide.
5. Leverage Integrative Project Management
A project manager is responsible for expertly guiding a project through various stages, including front-end and sub-phases. They request support, lobby for resources, and handle technical and design issues. They also influence product definitions, outline project objectives, promote teamwork, and facilitate strategic alignment.
At Pivot, our project managers are involved in each of these critical tasks. As it pertains specifically to front-end processes, they are intricately involved in facilitating collaboration, articulating shared goals, prioritizing workflows, mapping and tracking path dependencies, and providing leadership and oversight.
From front-end product definition to design to prototyping to manufacturing to distribution, Pivot offers businesses the support they need throughout all stages of NPD while maximizing their Internal Rate of Return. Our mission lies in helping companies successfully and cost-effectively realize their new product’s potential and profitably see it to market. If you’re looking for a leading NPD partner, contact us today to learn more about how Pivot can help you bring your product idea to life and grow your business.