product development (new product development, or NPD)

Contributor(s): Amy Koski

Product development, also called new product management, is a series of steps that includes the conceptualization, design, development and marketing of newly created or newly rebranded goods or services. The objective of product development is to cultivate, maintain and increase a company's market share by satisfying a consumer demand. Not every product will appeal to every customer or client base, so defining the target market for a product is a critical component that must take place early in the product development process. Quantitative market research should be conducted at all phases of the design process, including before the product or service is conceived, while the product is being designed and after the product has been launched.

Product development frameworks

Although product development is creative, the discipline requires a systematic approach to guide the processes that are required to get a new product to market. Organizations such as the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) and the Product Development Institute (PDI) provide guidance about selecting the best development framework for a new product or service. A framework helps structure the actual product development.

Some frameworks, like the fuzzy front end (FFE) approach, define what steps should be followed, but leave it up to the team to decide which order makes most sense for the specific product that is being developed. The five elements of FFE product development are:

Identification of design criteria -- involves brainstorming possible new products. Once an idea has been identified as a prospective product, a more formal product development strategy can be applied.

Idea analysis -- involves a closer evaluation of the product concept. Market research and concept studies are undertaken to determine if the idea is feasible or within a relevant business context to the company or to the consumer.

Concept genesis -- involves turning an identified product opportunity into a tangible concept.

Prototyping -- involves creating a rapid prototype for a product concept that has been determined to have business relevance and value. Prototyping in this front-end context means a "quick-and-dirty" model is created, rather than the refined product model that will be tested and marketed later on.

Product development -- involves ensuring the concept has passed muster and has been determined to make business sense and have business value.

Other frameworks, like design thinking, have iterative steps that are designed to be followed in a particular order to promote creativity and collaboration. The five components of design thinking are:

Empathize -- Learn more about the problem from multiple perspectives.

Define -- Identify the scope and true nature of the problem.

Ideate -- Brainstorm solutions to the problem.

Prototype -- Weed out unworkable or impractical solutions.

Test -- Solicit feedback.

This composite new product development (NPD) framework for manufactured goods has eight important components:

Check out this video for a
walk through the eight stages
of new product development.

Idea generation is the continuous and systematic quest for new product opportunities, including updating or changing an existing product.

Idea screening takes the less attractive, infeasible and unwanted product ideas out of the running. Unsuitable ideas should be determined through objective consideration.

Concept development and testing is vital. The internal, objective analysis of step two is replaced by customer opinion in this stage. The idea, or product concept at this point, must be tested on a true customer base. The testers' reactions can then be leveraged to adjust and further develop the concept according to the feedback.

Market strategy/business analysis is comprised of four P's, which are product, price, promotion and placement.

Product: The service or good that's been designed to satisfy the demand of a target audience.

Price: Pricing decisions affect everything; profit margins, supply and demand, and market strategy.

Promotion: The goals of promotion are to present the product to the target audience, increasing demand by doing so, and to illustrate the value of the product. Promotion includes advertisements, public relations and marketing campaigns.

Placement: The transaction may not occur on the web, but in today's digital economy, the customer is generally engaged and converted on the internet. Whether the product will be provided in bricks-and-mortar or clicks-and-mortar shops, or available through an omnichannel approach, the optimal channel, or channels, for placement must be determined if the targeted potential customers are to become actual customers.

Feasibility analysis/study yields information that is critical to the product's success. It entails organizing private groups that will test a beta version, or prototype, of the product, then evaluate the experience in a test panel. This feedback communicates the target market's level of interest and desired product features, as well as determines whether the product in development has the potential to be profitable, attainable and viable for the company, while satisfying a real demand from the target market.

Product technical design/Product development integrates the results of the feasibility analyses and feedback from beta tests from stage five into the product. This stage consists of turning that prototype or concept into a workable market offering; ironing out the technicalities of the product; and alerting and organizing the departments involved with the product launch, such as research and development, finance, marketing, production or operations.

Test marketing, or market testing, differs from concept or beta testing in that the prototype product and whole proposed marketing plan, not individual segments, are evaluated. The goal of this stage is to validate the entire concept -- from marketing angle and message to packaging to advertising to distribution. By testing the entire package before launch, the company can vet the reception of the product before a full go-to-market investment is made.

Market entry/commercialization is the stage in which the product is introduced to the target market. All the data obtained throughout the previous seven stages of this approach are used to produce, market and distribute the final product to and through the appropriate channels.

Illustration: The fuzzy front end (FFE) and new product development (NPD) processes

Product development is an always-evolving and fluid process, and just as some steps will change, depending on the nature of the project, so will the person who manages product development. In some organizations, there is a dedicated team that researches and tests new products. Some smaller organizations may outsource their new product development to a design team. In midsize organizations, the product manager is often the person in charge of product development, and he or she may be part of the marketing team, while tech shops selling B2B products and services that have very technical requirements may have their product managers report to engineering. Regardless of what framework is used and who is in charge of new product development, the new part is just one aspect of the entire product lifecycle management.

This was last updated in June 2016

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In our case, I would have to say our biggest challenge has been to take a product that has been established for a long time with a particular user base and redefine/reformat the ways we implement our features so that other segments of the company can integrate with our platform (we were acquired a couple of years ago to be the engine of future product development and the ability to integrate all of those products together. Making that happen smoothly has been interesting, to say the least ;).
develop product need brain has developed ability ^-^
One of the challenges I observed with a huge product development project was accepting the reality that requirements can't be just defined, signed off, and frozen upfront. This mentality caused a lot of tension between the business and the development team.
What is the biggest product development challenge your organization has faced?
My industry standardized on one piece of software about 35 years ago. It was revolutionary software at the time and, of course it's been updated many times since then. But the bones are the same. And they're rickety bones at that.

Unfortunately for the industry, the largest buyer of our products (film studios) seem quite content with their choice and see little reason to change. Although there are many better, newer, faster programs available, studios insist that all work be done in the original.

So what's our challenge...? Figuring out how to get a dinosaur to move.
Interesting article. Thanks for highlighting interesting fundamentals on how to grow an idea and design a software product.

For me, though ideation is critical, prototyping is even more critical. Prototyping help organisations validate their concept and convince stakeholders to get a go ahead. Even more, a few product engineering companies develop prototype with right balance of components of a system that it can be used in the later stages of designing and development.

Moreover, I agree that Product development is an always evolving and accordingly it is important to make changes to stay abreast with competitive market.
One of the the most complex paradox (NPD managers) should solve is the extent to which potential customer(s) should inform the new product development process. Its undoubtedly crucial to involve the customer all stages, however, academic research widely shows that customer-led approach to NPD often yields incremental innovations. Probably the most common research why household giants are being slayed by modern start-up disruptors.


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