Chances are if you stroll down the aisle of your local supermarket, you will see new products on the shelves you did not see the last time you shopped. Super Market Guru estimates 15,000 new food products are developed each year by companies in the fiercely competitive food processing industry, but less than 20 percent will be successful. Food processors, as well as other industries, need to be ahead of the game in new product development, and it takes a clear product development process for that to happen.
Develop a flexible product development process. Every new product development project has different needs. Rigid processes encourage management to "go by the book," thus discouraging new ideas from coming to the fore. Development processes can be simple or complex and need to be tailored to fit the industry or product under consideration. It is imperative that each person in the organization involved with new product development understand the process and his role in it.
Make sure your product development team includes cross-functional groups. New product development is not the sole purview of your Research and Development department. If you include only designers, you may realize that the product is too difficult to manufacture only after much time and money has been spent.
Develop a set of metrics to let every team member know how well the development process works. Metrics allow everyone to see what progress has been made and whether the process is over or under budget and can also serve as a rallying point to spur on the development team. Metrics need to be easily explained and accessible to all.
Review the process post-launch. If you were late getting to market, or the product development was well over budget, make an effort to learn from the experience so you can carry your knowledge to the next new product. To do a proper review, you must make an honest assessment of every step of the process.
Make sure your top creative talent reports to a senior executive so ideas can reach the top. Create an entrepreneurial atmosphere in your organization so you can stay well ahead of your competition.
Make sure any new product ideas and other intellectual property is patent protected, if possible. Have all employees and suppliers sign non-disclosure agreements. Be on the lookout for ideas and encourage people to speak up if they have one. Be firm about aborting a new product development effort if the numbers warrant it.
Lisa Nielsen is a marketing consultant for small businesses and start-ups. As part of her consultancy, she writes advertising copy, newsletters, speeches, website content and marketing collateral for small and medium-sized businesses. She has been writing for more than 20 years. She is also a business strategist, trainer and executive coach. Nielsen holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Miami.