In one of my previous blogs I talked about how to structure new product development. The advantage is that you will benefit from the fact that you are able to easily manage all the activities of the various disciplines. Resulting in on-time introduction of the new product.

The past years I have worked with many versions of new product development processes (NPD) in various companies. Every year the processes were improved, became more complete and professional.

I will explain the simple and straightforward version, which can be easily integrated as a starting point in your organisation and be completed along the way.

Smooth new product development

Hopefully you will become as enthusiastic as I am on this way of working, as it definitely will contribute to a more smooth new product development. Not to forget within budget and on time introduction of the new product.

In order to help you, I put together the 5 step approach to implement a NPD in your organisation.

Step 1 Divide your new product development into 6 phases:

  1. Fuzzy Idea phase: brainstorm phase, input from market research to come to new ideas.
  2. Concept phase: determine your new product concept.
  3. Feasibility phase: verify the technical, commercial and financial feasibility of your new product idea.
  4. Realisation phase: develop the new product.
  5. Introduction phase: start mass production and bring the new product on stock in the warehouse. The new product is now available for sales.
  6. Evaluation phase: some months after the introduction the project team and management will evaluate what went right and what went wrong during the new product development. In the next project, these learnings will be taken into account.

Step 2 Define the disciplines you need in your project team.

After you have defined the different phases in your new product development process, you can decide which disciplines play an important role.

Here are a few:

  • Purchasing
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Software Engineering
  • Product Design
  • Project management
  • Product management
  • Marcom management
  • Sales
  • Quality
  • 3rd parties
  • Suppliers
  • Logistics
  • Market research
  • Innovation
  • Service

These disciplines need to be involved in the NPD in order to smoothen communication and stay on top of deliverables. Not all disciplines need to be part of the core project team, but at least they need to stay well informed.

The core project team works together intensively to keep the project on track.

Step 3 Define the input-output model per phase.

Step 3 is a very important step as you will define which input is needed to deliver which output, by whom and in which phase of the NPD.

An example for the discipline ‘Purchasing’:

Input: an estimation of the expected sales quantities over a certain period, a target cost price and a product specification (product manager delivers this input).

Output: a quote from the supplier.

It will cost you quite some time and effort to define these input-output deliverables in every phase of the NPD. But once set, you have a very detailed process which can be steered very well by the project manager, in order to keep up with the planning.

Step 4 Define the milestones between the development phases.

At the end of every phase in new product development, milestones are fixed.

These milestones are called ‘Quality Gates’ (QG). They start with QG0 until QG5 and close a certain phase in the development process in order to move to the next phase.

The milestones are linked to investment decisions, for example tooling, demo samples, external development costs. A good project planning needs to have these investment decisions at the same date as the milestones. This prevents a non-profitable project to be continued.

Development phases Milestones
1 Fuzzy Idea phase QG0 Concept Start
2 Concept phase QG1 Project approval
3 Definition phase QG2 Commitment date
4 Realisation phase QG3 Design Release
5 Introduction phase QG4 Launch date
6 Evaluation phase QG5 Evaluation

QG0 closes off the Fuzzy Idea phase in order to start with Concept start of  the new product idea. During the Concept phase the new product idea is researched and concept ideas are presented internally. This phase is closed with QG1 Project approval if the concept idea has proved to be interesting and viable and moves the project to the Definition phase. During Definition phase the product idea is worked out in much more detail and needs to pass technical, commercial and financial feasibility studies. When all this is positive, the project can pass QG2 Commitment date. Everybody in the organisation has confidence in the new project and approves the investments to be made.

The projects moves to the Realisation phase. During this phase, the new product is being developed, tested and released for production. This milestone is called QG3 Design Release. The design and all other product elements and characteristics are 100% defined and released. During the Introduction phase the product is being mass produced, the marcom activities take place and the product is being put on stock in the warehouse. When the product is ready for sales, the Introduction phase can be closed by QG4 Launch date.

When the product is in the market for several months, a project evaluation can be planned to evaluate this new product development project. This phase is closed with passing milestone QG5 Evaluation and learnings can be implemented in a next project.

Stap 5 Implement the milestones in the project planning.

The milestones are also included in the project planning. They serve as decision moments for the project team and approvers/management to evaluate the status of the new product development and to decide whether the project can continue or not. The biggest challenge of project managers is to create a project planning that is reliable. There are so many influences which are not controlled by you, that have effect on your planning, which makes it hard sometimes to fix dates and prevent delay.

A good project planning needs to have these investment decisions at the same date as the milestones. This prevents a non-profitable project to be continued.

How long every phase takes, depends on the complexity of the new product.

With the help of the above 5 steps, you can add structure to your new product development process. You wil benefit from the fact that you are able to easily manage all the activities of the various disciplines. Resulting in on-time introduction of the new product.

Please check the free download page for interesting tools to help you manage and develop great products.

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