New Product Development Process

New Product Development Process
New Product Development Process

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New Product Development Process

The main components of a New Product Development process and the benefits of using the Stage-Gate Product Innovation system in the New Product Development Process

New product development (NPD) is an important cornerstone to the success of any firm. To remain competitive, companies cannot bury their head and seem less concerned about developing new products that add value to their customers (Salgado, Salomon & Mello, 2012). Because of these, new product development process is important to businesses and the reason why companies should invest in it.  NPD ensures that a new product is introduced in the market to meet the needs of the customers. The paper critically evaluates main components of a NPD process as well as benefits of using Stage-Gate product innovation system.

Before a new product is introduced in the market, it has to go through different processes or stages. The major components of NPD include; opportunity identification and idea generation, product concept development, concept testing, design and engineering of products and lastly is the prototype development and testing (Hauser & Dahan, 2007).

Opportunity identification and idea generation is the first component of NPD process. This is a the most important component that kick-starts the process of development of a new product (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). The new product opportunities are identified or new ideas emerge based on the customer unmet needs. Customers are the major source of inspiration and therefore, any new idea generated must focus on meeting their needs. At this stage, it is important to embrace and consider the views or ideas of other stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, and employees’ point of view.

Communication of this view is expected in good time and no one should be left out (Salgado, Salomon & Mello, 2012). Some challenges may be experienced when gathering information from customers such as possibility of change of mind when the final product comes out,  difficult in forming opinions and expressing preference because  of a lack of sense of product features, and lastly biasness on the side of information gatherer due to biasness.

To avoid these, it requires use of appropriate methods of data collections for the target customers such as experiential interviews and user observation. In this age of technological advancement, use of web-based methods for the fuzzy front end can apply (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). Virtual groups participate on new product concept by providing their view and opinions. Many firms are finding such groups and individuals that browse on new product stimuli as rewarding.

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 The second component is product concept development that begins after identification and grouping of customer needs (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). The journey on how to address the needs of the customer commences. Not all ideas generated are considered. Nevertheless, some of these ideas at the start seem unconventional and impractical but are refined and share into viable opportunities (Salgado, Salomon & Mello, 2012).

Different ideation methods have been proposed. They include system approaches, forced relationships, incentive compatible ideation, brainstorming, varied perspectives, morphological analysis, and archival analysis. For instance, in brainstorming, members are at liberty to generate their ideas regardless whether they are good or unrealistic.

 The third component is concept testing. This is also a critical step in the process of new product development process. At this stage, the new products concepts are screened as potential customers use qualitative and quantitative research methods (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). During this process, it is also critical to carry out evaluations by asking oneself whether indeed the idea or concept is important to the consumer. Other attributes to evaluate are the purchase interest of the customers, dissatisfaction with the available products help to prioritize ideas for further testing, and funding.

The concept is defined in the form of a promise to the consumers that indeed the firm understands the relevant needs of the customers (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). It also provides a proof on how the company is prepared to address the needs of the consumers in a better way than any other (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). It is also important to provide an emotional or rational reason why the customer should try the company product, definition, and communication of the concepts core benefit proposition (CBP).

The concept is evaluated through laboratory test markets (LTMs) and survey research. The prediction need to be highly accurate for the product team to evaluate them and make improvement on them. At this stage, the setting  should be realistic and  concept of marketing such as consideration of marketing mix should be utilized  (Hauser & Dahan, 2007).

For example, advertisement of the concepts such as storyboards as opposed to finished advertising with prototype products should be used. Forecasting should be done as the concept moves through the process. This is because, resources are being utilized and it is important to have an estimate of the profit and revenue potential of the concept early in the process.

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The fourth component also stage is the designing and engineering products (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). This stage ensures that few but highly concepts that are proven viable are designed and engineered in order to meet the needs of the customers at profitable costs (Salgado, Salomon & Mello, 2012). The company cannot afford to design and engineer a concept if they have no value to the customer as well as to the company. The techniques they use to design and engineer products are value Engineering and conjoint analysis.

In conjoint analysis, the team optimizes the quantity or level of attributes or features that will be able to satisfy the customers and at the same time accrue profits to the company (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). For example, a company that produces marker cameras will be interested in knowing the optimal values of all the features that will go into its production such as the megapixel, the size, optimal zoom and the price of the camera when completed. In addition, they may also want to put to consideration situations where customers would make tradeoffs with other features.

Different methods of conjoint models are applicable such as hybrid, newer adaptive and discrete (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). On the other hand, value engineering is the integration of both the firm and customer perspectives when making cost and feasibility tradeoffs- in respect to the product (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). The team should consider the importance customers place on every function that the product performs in relation to the cost of the parts that are contributing to that function.

The underlying principle of value engineering is that the marginal cost of every part of the product need to not to exceed the marginal contribution to customer value. With advancement of new information and communication technologies web based methods for deigning and engineering product concepts have been embraced in most companies (Hauser & Dahan, 2007). Use of web based conjoint analysis is preferred because of the many benefits it offers such as capability to be demonstrated in a contextual manner.

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The last component is the prototype development and testing. The main aim or goal of this stage is evaluating the designed and engineered concepts to make the launch easier. At this stage, various prototypes are developed and then tested. The techniques used for testing automatically generate many solutions on the product concept theme (Hauser & Dahan, 2007).

Furthermore, at this stage, it is also important to test the marketing role by testing multiple designs with customers. Realistic testing is also required at this stage. The NPD team can simulate product acceptance in the marketplace that experiences or is affected by different variables such as sales force presentations, word of mouth, and advertising among other.

As globalization increases, the level of competition is increasing and this has seen decrease in product life cycles in most of the technology intensive industries ( Jou et al. 2010). This means that companies have to produce new products that will be of higher value to the customer to win over the competition. This therefore, forces innovators and thinkers to think about the most flexible ways to manage NPD without compromising on efficiency.

One of the methods of management NPD that companies are using is the Stage—gate processes. However, other avenues of adapting Agile methods for software development and integrating them with others are also underway. Little research on integration of the Agile and stage-gate processes has made it difficult for many companies to try the same because this may affect on their performance.

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 Stage-Gate product innovation systems are one of the methods that many industries rely on. This method is linear in nature and it depends on documentation on fixed set of activities (Sommer, Hedegaard, Dukovska-Popovska & Steger-Jensen, 2015). The method has a series of product development stages and it starts from the generation of idea, the development of the idea, and then implementation phases which is then followed with product launch or the evaluation stage that comes at the end.  

According to Sommer, Hedegaard, Dukovska-Popovska & Steger-Jensen (2015), this method has a number of advantages to the organization. One of the advantages of using this method is that it increases the speed of development. This ensures that the company achieves its objectives within a short period. This increased speed as well cuts the costs incurred as it takes less time to come up with an idea and to take the same through the stages to the final stage of product launch.

The method is also able to produce better quality (Sommer, Hedegaard, Dukovska-Popovska & Steger-Jensen, 2015). Quality is important especially when it comes to the products that consumers want. Quality is a strategy that companies use to achieve a competitive edge over their competitors. Therefore, it is very good method to ensure that high standards of quality are achieved. The other advantage of the method is that it ensures greater discipline and better performance overall compared to other informal development processes (Sommer, Hedegaard, Dukovska-Popovska & Steger-Jensen, 2015).

Using the tool as well decreases iterations, as the entire process is predictable from the commencement to the final product. The method  has been established to help improve performances at the fuzzy front end stage through development processes (Sommer, Hedegaard, Dukovska-Popovska & Steger-Jensen, 2015). Fuzzy from end is set of activities done even before the process of defining requirements specification is over. This stage therefore requires the team to deliberate on what the product should do to meet or satisfy the perceived business needs.

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According to (Grönlund, Sjödin,  & Frishammar, 2010), stage-gate methodologies are known across the world and are mostly used in industries  all over the world to help bring order to chaotic process of product innovation. In a survey carried out, it was found out that 60 percent of those responding NPD functions were in one way or another using Stage – Gate methodology. The methodology coined by Robert Cooper was to help achieve efficiency.

It is therefore both an operational and a conceptual model that helps to move product across all the phases of development (Grönlund, Sjödin & Frishammar, 2010). It achieves effectiveness and efficiency through integrating in a process known as ad-hoc that is lacking in many industries. The gates function as top and go and they as well help to prioritize points for decisions for the future of the project are to be made (Grönlund, Sjödin & Frishammar, 2010).

The functional groups known as gatekeepers are the ones that man them and they help in project evaluation on the basis of business rationale, quality of execution, and quality of action plan. This therefore, indicates the magnitude of scrutiny and gate keeping involved in using the methodology (Grönlund, Sjödin & Frishammar, 2010). All this is done to avoid errors. For instance, the execution must be of high quality. The business rationale is also put to consideration. Understanding the purpose of the business is key to ensure that implementation is done in a good manner to have positive impacts on the project.

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Research has shown that this method is highly appreciated by many industries for its potential to energize and to speed up the new product development initiatives (Grönlund, Sjödin & Frishammar, 2010). Despite, this, there have been criticism from other quarters leveled against using Stage-Gate method. Critics argue that the method is time consuming, and this leads to time wasting (Grönlund, Sjödin & Frishammar, 2010). The time wasted could have been used in a valuable venture.

Others criticism of the method include no provision of focus, it requires that one follows bureaucratic procedures and it restricts learning opportunities (Grönlund, Sjödin & Frishammar, 2010). The bureaucratic procedures are evidenced as the methodology adherse to the process of NPD from start to the final stage. This too is not pleasing and they feel that it should be modified. The restriction of learning opportunity is also a weakness that should be addressed quickly. The method is linear and it does not provide a better platform for other to learn.

 Next generation stage-gate process method has been developed in response to the criticism against this method (Grönlund, Sjödin,  & Frishammar, 2010). The motivation  for developing is for improving efficiency and speeding up of processes through incorporation of fluid stage with fuzzy and series of overlapping or confrontational go decisions. More developments on the method have focused on making it faster, flexible, adaptable, and effective (Grönlund, Sjödin & Frishammar, 2010). Some of the companies that have used State-Gate processes have also begun to accommodate open innovation activities.

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The development in the NPD process demonstrates the importance of proper tools and methodologies to rely on during NPD process. Many companies have utilized stage-Gate method and they have succeeded in their NPD process. The level of speed has increased with the method. Level of efficiency and effectiveness has also increased and these are some of the reasons that still compel firms to rely on the same.

Constructive criticism against the method has also emerged. Nevertheless, instead it is important and constructive to receive criticism so that the inspiration to create a more appealing and active methodology is   reached. The most important thing is that researchers are producing new advanced methods to help improve management of NPD process. Such improvements method makes management of NPD process even more productive and plausible.

As I conclude, new product development process is very important and has to be taken serious if companies are concerned about the future. It is through NPD that companies and industries are able to survive the competition and even manage to achieve a competitive edge. Competition has become high and the only way to avoid the same is to create products that are unique to the market. This process of development must therefore go through different stages to ensure that the final product is of high quality, it meets the expectation of the customer, it also adds value to the customers, and that it has to bring returns to the company.

A venture that the company investments on should have tangible benefits to be of value. In NPD, it is important to understand that it involves different components that that are of great important to the success of the entire process. These components also phases include generation of ideas and opportunities, product concept development, concept setting, design and engineer of the products and lastly, prototype development as well as testing.

Various methods are as well used for management of these processes. Stage-gate is one of the methods that I would use in the project. The method has quite a number of benefits that firms accrue. Even though, the method has some weaknesses, efforts are underway to ensure that the method is improved to offer value to the firm.

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Reference

Ale Ebrahim, N, Ahmed, S, & Taha, Z 2010, ‘Critical factors for new product developments in SMEs virtual team’, African Journal of Business Management, vol. 4 no.11, pp. 2247-2257

Grönlund, J., Sjödin, D. R., & Frishammar, J. (2010). Open Innovation and the Stage-Gate Process: A revised model for new product development. California Management Review, 52(3), 106-131.

Hauser, J, & Dahan, R 2007, ‘New product development. Retrieved from: http://www.mit.edu/~hauser/Papers/Chapter%208%20Hauser_Dahan%20Book%20Chapt er%20on%20New%20Products.pdf

Jou, Y. T., Chen, C. H„ Hwang, C. H., Lin, W. T., and Huang, S. J 2010, ‘A study on the improvements of new product development procedure performance: An application of      design for Six Sigma in a semiconductor equipment manufacturer’, International Journal of Production Research, vol. 48 no. 19, pp.573-5591.

Salgado, E, Salomon, V, & Mello, C 2012, ‘Analytic hierarchy prioritisation of new product development activities for electronics manufacturing’, International Journal Of  Production Research, 50, 17, pp. 4860-4866, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost,         viewed 27 November 2015.

Sommer, A, Hedegaard, C, Dukovska-Popovska, I, & Steger-Jensen, K 2015, ‘Improved Product Development Performance through Agile/Stage-Gate Hybrids’, Research Technology Management, 58, 1, pp. 34-44, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 November 2015.

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