New Product Accelerator

Re-engineering stage-gated new product development process to shorten cycle time. Cut cost. Improve quality. And be the first into the marketplace.

In today's marketplace -- where staying one step ahead of the pack can be a matter of survival -- it helps to recall the new product development mantra of the high-tech crowd "first into the market stays first." Even after the dust of competitive entries has settled, it's not uncommon to discover the first-to-enter retains a 50% market share advantage over the closest competitor. For that reason world-class competitors are creating product development procedures that cut cycle development time by half. And costs by even more.

Most companies have installed some form of "stage-gating" process to manage efforts to convert product concepts into marketplace realities faster, better and cheaper. But the cold reality is this: most systems fail to begin in the beginning and stop short of the end point. Even more are riddled with hidden bottlenecks, debilitating change & rework, built-in administrative delays and unnecessary "wait-for-approvals."

NPD Accelerator is designed to lead / coach / support an internal process team assigned the task of re-engineering the systems and procedures used to identify new product concepts, prioritize them, and then shepherd selected opportunities through the development of business strategies and concurrent engineering / design efforts.

A generic model is used to delineate key stage-gated functions; around this framework the unique needs and eccentricities of client NPD process are discovered, mapped, analyzed, breakdowns / weaknesses identified and opportunities recognized. The five areas of investigation include:

  • Genesis functions -- information discovery, creation of ideas, screen & prioritize concepts
  • Business case development -- project plans, portfolio analysis & funding decisions
  • Develop & test -- product plan, product specs, design & development, production, testing
  • Commercialization -- deployment of corporate resources, creation of marketing plans, launch
  • Post-launch maintenance -- assessment of sales & profit vs goal, enhancement opportunities, tracking & extending product life-cycle
Formal systems & procedures -- the "hardware" -- are prerequisite to efficiency and the primary focus falls on streamlining / automating the stage-gate review, with heavy emphasis on integrating it with go / no-go criteria assigned in portfolio analysis. But at day's end, success is as much a matter of how the functions are performed. NPD Accelerator acknowledges these "software" issues by addressing ways to optimize cross-functional team practices and integrate them into the corporate culture.

Through a series of internal interviews followed by a sequence of workshops involving the NPD improvement team, troubleshooters analyze the current NPD process. Discover where the bottlenecks are hidden. Ferret out the built-in delays and accidental -- occasionally deliberate -- ways in which marketers, design engineers, manufacturing and senior managers circumvent the NPD blueprint.

Investigations focus on discovering the difference between the theoretical blueprint for managing the NPD process and real-world realities. Workshops explore the NPD practices employed by best-in-class companies, with emphasis on the ways "gate-keeper" teams -- at the point of project initiation -- prioritize and fund a portfolio of new product candidates and then use the criteria to manage each of the stage-gate evaluations. Even the team practices used within cross-functional teams are reviewed, analyzed and compared to practices of operations acknowledged to be best in class. Ultimately the discoveries and discussion generate a streamlined NPD process incorporating the input of functional managers -- one in which they have invested their own pragmatic needs and insights. And will support!

The ultimate objective of any for-profit operation is to produce a sustained series of new products. So it's no big surprise to hear that improving the process to develop new products / services faster, better and cheaper is the surest way to get ahead -- and stay ahead -- of competitors. But here's the unexpected payoff: the magnitude of improvement in even well-run companies can be staggering. Benchmarking investigations of Hewlett-Packard's product development process discovered their computer printer operations had reduced product development time from 54 months to 22. Toyota decreased its development time by 40%. And cost by 60%.

But the tool is not limited to high-tech and durables encumbered by bewildering technology and complex production procedures. Hands-on experience with the NPD stage-gate process of Pepsico, Gillette, Northern Trust -- and nearly a dozen more of America's most-admired corporations prove the benefits of a streamlined NPD process transcend SIC categories.

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