The Product Manager and New Product Development (NPD) Success

Product ManagerA key organizational role in the new product development (NPD) process is commonly referred to as a product manager. There are many definitions of this role, depending on the size of the company and the type of technology. Here we will focus on the position in the context of small to mid-sized firms who manufacture highly engineered products. In some organizations, a product manager may have P&L responsibility, but for the purposes of this discussion, it is assumed they do not. Continue reading

Measuring New Product Development (NPD) Success

SuccessThere are two important characteristics of new product development (NPD) that are underappreciated. First, NPD is one of, if not the most complex of all business processes. I speak from experience having managed an R&D organization in a mid-sized analytical instrument manufacturer in addition to previous roles in manufacturing, sales, marketing, and customer support. I have intimate knowledge of every business process and there is no doubt that NPD is the most complex. Second, not only is NPD complex, but it is arguably one of the most important of all business processes. New products are the lifeblood of any company, manufacturing or otherwise. Those who do it well prosper. Continue reading

The Importance of a Balanced Project Portfolio

In a recent article (1), I proposed a practical project portfolio management (PPM) system appropriate for small to mid-sized firms. A PPM system is necessary in order to make sure all ideas for new products are thoroughly considered, and a process in place to decide which ones to invest in. Most companies have far too many projects for available resources, therefore, a process to choose becomes very important, especially in today’s competitive market and tough economic times. The focus of this article is to discuss why there is a need for a balanced portfolio and what needs to be in place organizationally to achieve it. Continue reading

What’s the “Right” Definition of Marketing?

This is a question that when asked, you get a variety of answers. In many cases, the definition is too narrow, and only focuses on advertising and outward communication to customers. Sometimes it is confused with sales. One of the classic, timeless descriptions of the difference between sales and marketing comes from Theodore Levitt’s famous 1960 Harvard Business Review article, “Marketing Myopia”.  In Levitt’s definition, selling focuses on the needs of the seller. It’s all about turning a product into a revenue stream. Marketing on the other hand is focused on the needs of the buyer and meeting their needs. That definition of the difference has stood the test of time, but is often forgotten. Continue reading

How Does Job Stress Impact NPD Effectiveness?

For those responsible for new product development, how job stress affects NPD effectiveness has important managerial implications. Most assume that some level of stress leads to improved performance, but there have been few empirical studies. A recent study published in the Journal of Product Innovation Management provides some useful insights. Continue reading

What Does Having a “Design View” Mean to You?

I believe there are many answers to that question. Let’s consider some of them.

One aspect of is certainly the industrial design of your product. I recently wrote a blog post on this very subject. I believe many companies who manufacture industrial products in particular ignore this very important aspect of product design. Organizations run by engineers focus so much of their creative energy on performance and the technology that apple_ipad_2I believe they miss an opportunity to create an emotional bond with customers, and enhance competitive advantage. Think of the Ipad®. Do you believe its design evokes an emotional response and influences the purchase decision? It is also important to consider how you want to treat industrial design across the entire product portfolio. Even if different products have radically different form factors, a common industrial design “theme” will set your company apart from the competition. Continue reading

What’s the Right Level of R&D and Marketing Integration for NPD Success?

A recent article in the September issue of the Journal of Product Innovation Management provides some perspectives on the integration of R&D and Marketing and the relationship to NPD success. The author defines integration as “the magnitude of interaction and communication, the level of information sharing, the degree of coordination, and the extent to which marketing and R&D have a common vision and collective goals during a NPD project.” Continue reading

The Use of External vs. Internal Resources for Industrial Design

In a recent post entitled “Are You Disregarding the Importance of Industrial Design?” I discussed the importance of industrial design. I believe companies who manufacture industrial products, and small to medium sized businesses in particular, tend to ignore this important source of competitive advantage. How the product looks influences the meaning that customers assign to the product. It is the meaning of the product that impacts the emotional aspect of the purchase decision. Continue reading

Are You Disregarding the Importance of Industrial Design?

Companies that manufacture sophisticated, highly-engineered products focus much of their attention on performance attributes. This is especially true for companies whose products are sold to other businesses as opposed to consumer products.  In creating the product definition, we ask questions like: What do customers need in terms of performance and are we capable of supplying that? What are competitors doing and how do we gain competitive advantage? Continue reading

Another Way to Look at the Product Definition

Defining a new product is an important task and one of the most challenging in the NPD process. The written definition of the product must provide a vision for the project team and describe the important features and benefits, product and project cost targets, and schedule. It is the culmination of the on-going portfolio planning process that allocates scarce resources to projects where the output will be the new products that provide competitive advantage and fuel business growth. Continue reading