Evolution of a Development Project

Evolution of a New Product Development (NPD) Project

A walk through observations of how a new product development project evolves. We’ve observed three distinct phases; gestation of an idea, creation of the product, and overrun. Overrun should not be a phase, but by default it has become a default part of development, as a result of poor planning.

It all starts with an idea. This gestates with a few people. They understand the time-to-market window and what they need to produce by that time.

The idea formulates and comes together.

The idea becomes a product concept and a larger team is formed. Sometimes, there is an early prototype either on paper or for real. Typically, the clock is turned on at team formation. However, fast-time-to-market best practice teams start the cycle time clock when the idea is first conceived because they know that the gestation time can be as long as the actual development time frame. Reducing gestation time can have the greatest impact on overall cycle time. Hitting the window on time means higher ASP, Margins, and Profit.

Work starts in earnest. There is a period of normal divergence as ideas flow and possibilities are explored. We know from experience on fast cycle time projects that at about one third of the time we need to force convergence on the goal, since we need two thirds of the remaining time to finish the product and get it to market.

The normal team does not converge and continues to diverge past the one third cutoff point. They still need the two thirds of the remaining time to converge, so they’ll miss the target window. They’re late. Sometimes when they realize they’re late, they start to diverge again, since the product becomes technically obsolete and they need to redesign it to be competitive at the new time of introduction in the future. I’ve seen this cycle repeat many times for some products that never make it to market, but consume vast quantities of resources in the process. These are the three stages I mentioned earlier.

NPD cycle time can be dramatically reduced by shortening the gestation time and having the discipline and proper planning to converge on the goal quickly. We’ve been able to reduce cycle time by more than 50% on products ranging from the Sony Playstation to billion dollar semiconductor Fabs using this metric.