Adapting the New Product Development Process to a Small Company
Most leading companies follow a structured and highly disciplined approach to new product development. These programs are normally modeled along the lines of Robert Cooper's Stage-Gate (TM) or PRTM co-founder Michael McGrath's PACE-Product And Cycle-time Excellence (TM) processes.
These processes are particularly effective at filtering a broad range of new ideas or initial product concepts into a portfolio of thoroughly vetted and properly resourced product programs.
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The common features of the most popular NPD processes are
1) a review board consisting of the heads of the departments that provide resources to development programs,
2) a core team responsible for managing the development implementation consisting of individuals of various functional departments,
3) management reviews that take place at significant milestones during development, and
4) clearly defined objectives and deliverables required at each milestone/management review.
The development process is divided into several stages (for example, Concept, Business Case, Development, Testing, and Deployment), with the management reviews being the gates between stages. Decisions at the reviews would typically be to move forward into the next stage of development, kill the program, or re-direct back to the current or previous stage with specific defined objectives for stage completion.
Large companies have much to gain from following such processes. But what about smaller organizations? In reality, it is even more important for smaller companies to be vigilant in allocating their limited development resources.