What is new product development (NPD)?
The ultimate goal when developing a new product is pretty clear: to maintain/increase your company’s results (aka the financial income) by constantly satisfying your customer’s ever-changing demands.
It’s extremely important to clearly define your target market and your personas in order to identify the customer base characteristics as well as defining the paths to follow when improving your products/services.
Knowing who you want to please and sell to is critical for defining your development strategy. That’s why it’s so important to conduct both quantitative and qualitative research all through the new product development process – from the concept to the launch.
What better way to know if you’re on the right track than asking the people you expect to actually give you money for it?
Why worry about new product development?
Having a well defined and planned product development strategy is key for giving your product/service a huge advantage over your competition. Knowing where your product/service stands as well as the steps you must take to up its game can make all the difference between your business’ success and utter failure.
NPD relies mainly on a creative process but that doesn’t mean you can’t adopt a systematic approach to guide this process. There’s a wide variety of frameworks that can help your product development team by providing them with guidelines and specific steps that makes the most sense to your industry and customer base.
Let’s consider design thinking as a possible framework for promoting collaboration and creating a creative environment. Its five main components (empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test) provide you a clear structure for guiding the new product development process, from learning about the problem/situation that’s inspiring this new development from many different angles and further identifying and defining the problem to brainstorming possible solutions, prototyping and testing them internally and externally to get your customer’s feedback.
What makes design thinking such a great innovation and development framework is the fact that it’s customer centric. Considering the fact that developing new features and adapting products/services is all about the customer, making him the sun of your product galaxy is the right path to follow.
It’s safe to say that product development is a fluid process, it’s always changing and adapting to the company’s and customer’s needs. Some steps may work differently depending on the nature of your product/service but some principles such as brainstorming, prototyping and getting customer feedback will always be present.
Some organizations, mainly larger ones, will likely have an internal innovation/development department but it’s not uncommon to see smaller companies outsourcing product development to companies that specialize on this process.
The product manager, aka the person responsible for all aspects of the development process, will likely interact with many departments of its company (marketing, customer success, development, etc.) but, regardless of that, it’s essential to keep in mind that, even though NPD is a very important process, it’s just one of the many aspects involved when managing your product/service lifecycle.