How to develop new products

Checklist

  1. 1 Generate ideas for new and modified products: for example, from customer feedback, employee suggestions and technical developments.
  2. 2 Assess how these ideas fit with your strategy, market position and skills; confirm that you have the resources to devote to development.
  3. 3 Research the market, assessing customer requirements and sales potential; identify key risks and plan your marketing strategy.
  4. 4 Research the competition and potential competition; learn from competitors’ successes and failures.
  5. 5 Form a project team covering all the key skills (eg marketing, design, production, purchasing and finance) and led by a product champion.
  6. 6 Plan the critical path, identifying which activities must be undertaken first and which can happen in parallel.
  7. 7 Set budgets, objectives and timescales; regularly assess progress during the product development project and, if necessary, modify plans.
  8. 8 Assess other risks to the project such as technical hurdles and whether your intellectual property can be protected.
  9. 9 Define the basic product specification and translate specific features into product requirements; identify your key selling points.
  10. 10 Estimate the likely selling price and set target production costs; assess likely actual costs of development and production, allowing for contingencies.
  11. 11 Design the product, taking into account marketing, production and purchasing requirements.
  12. 12 Develop a prototype : iron out technical and production issues and to test market reaction; make any necessary changes.
  13. 13 Gear up for full-scale production and launch the product.
  14. 14 Continue to monitor the product's success and look for opportunities to further develop it.

Cardinal rules

Do:

  • use customer wants and needs to drive product development
  • investigate competitors’ plans and products
  • assess and control risks
  • involve a full project team from the outset
  • plan the critical path
  • expect setbacks, and be prepared to modify your plans
  • conduct trials before committing to full-scale production

Don't:

  • develop new ideas without adequate market research
  • overlook the threat of new competition
  • attempt over-ambitious projects
  • let your existing products become stale