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.

Traditional approaches start with research of the market, identifying unmet needs, defining the new product requirements, developing and testing the new product, creating the marketing plan and value proposition, and finally launching the product. For companies that have a dynamic, well-functioning NPD culture, including a high level of senior management support and engagement, most of the product launches will prove successful.

While traditional approaches remain valid, another way to look at the product definition task is to reverse the entire process. In organizations I have worked in, we often talked about the concept of “writing the brochure” as a first step. You are basically trying to visualize what a successful product launch will look like. This concept was described well in recent PDMA Visions newsletter article (Issue 3, 2012) entitled “Want to Jump-Start Your Product Development? Reverse Engineer Your Future?” by Joe Tradii.

In this approach, the first step is to assemble a small cross-functional team who are open to and will engage in this type of ambiguous activity. Someone is assigned to represent the voice of your most demanding customer, and someone else should represent your most significant competitor. The second step is to assume that you have successfully launched your product, then brainstorm what that product would look like. Third, you then contemplate the value proposition and build a marketing campaign around that, including what benefits you will highlight, potential ad campaigns, what the brochure might look like, a typical pitch your sales organization will use, etc. Finally, now that you have a better idea what a successful product launch might look like, now go back and look at what features are needed and use this information to write the new product definition.

New Product Visions is a consulting company that helps organizations improve the effectiveness of their new product development processes. We specialize in small to mid-sized companies that manufacture highly engineered products. Contact us today about how we might help you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.