Monday, January 13, 2014

What's New in New Product Development

It's a new year, which means new products. A 1986 Harvard Business Review article talked about the "New New Product Development Game"--referring to the evolution from a sequential, linear product development process to a series of broadly overlapping steps that speed up the process and avoid bottlenecks.

Nearly 30 years later, many marketers have moved away from deliberately linear processes to more flexible, frequent iterations that allow for innovation ASAP. The graphic at left, for instance, shows agile development, which keeps the innovations coming in almost continuous iterations. Cycle time matters.

For products that are delivered in the cloud, this is especially important. No customer wants to wait for the latest and greatest, especially in the world of technology, where product life cycles may be measured in months rather than years.

Of course, if you're buying tax preparation software, you'll look carefully at the release date of the products under consideration. But if you're buying laundry detergent, does it really matter whether you've got the latest version or last year's formulation?

Now car and truck manufacturers are moving to staggered introductions rather than the rigid model-year launches that were standard just a few years ago. Not all fleet operators are pleased, however, because this complicates their purchase planning process.

New products continue to be released at a fast and furious rate. Even with the changes in PCs, tablets, and smartphones, new electronics gadgets are flooding the market, vying to be the new new thing and perhaps the next standard. Fitness bands. Smartwatches (remember calculator watches?) New food products are crowding grocery shelves, as usual. Television shows are introduced yearround, not only in the fall, which was the traditional time for new shows.

Which new products will succeed? Which will fail? Which will be presold with buzz before they even hit the market?

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