Structured product development as a strategic issue


The previous meeting was another sign of the unstructured approach to NPD. People start to scratch their heads. Joe and Justin meet again.

Joe: I wonder if our NPD approach is still up-to-date

Justin: why don’t you call it Structured Product Development or SPD instead of NPD?

Joe: indeed, why?

Justin: because often  product development lacks structure and, product-development is for new anyway.

Joe: makes sense, but I continue to wonder if our approach is up-to-date

Justin: the shortest and best answer is: no!

Joe: you’re best qualified to give me the answer; it’s your responsibility after all. What do you plan to do about it?

Justin: I plan to start and put SPD in its strategic context and work from there

Joe: instead of what we are doing now.  Like “we need a few new products, let’s make them”. Is that what you mean?

Justin: exactly. Because I sincerely believe that with a bit more structure in our approach we can significantly diminish the failure-rate

Joe: looking at what we now spend on NPD, sorry SPD, that is a very attractive idea. What goes wrong nowadays?

Justin: to mention but a few flaws – have you got another 10 minutes? -  I can spontaneously say lack of focus. Sometimes we were working on 50 odd different development projects. The development-briefs are often so ambiguous that it looks as if we are working on a quack’s cure all. The lack of a team that can commit and dedicate time to projects is certainly felt. For most, the SPD effort is “when I have time”. And therefore we fail in the execution; because we cut corners to be ready on D Day.

Joe: that sounds ominous. What about this ambiguity you mentioned?

Justin: take for instance claims for which no proof can exist, or no clear positioning of the products, proposed brand-messages that are obscured by a plethora of information, no clarity as regards pricing-points, a list of deliverables that is way too long to be credible. Shall I go on?

Joe: so, are we talking discipline or approach?

Justin: both actually. With more discipline and a more focussed approach we can achieve much more in a shorter period of time. As I said, our failure-rate is bound to drop

Joe: can you send me a memo describing the current situation and your recommendations?

Justin: I did so about a year ago, but at that time you may not have wondered whether or not our SPD-approach is up-to-date. Product did not appear to be one of the priorities of the board. I am glad to see that this is changing.

Joe: oh, before you leave, don’t forget to put the memo in its proper strategic context. The board will love that.

Justin: consider it done. Without the proper strategic context the memo would hardly make sense anyway.

Marcel Blok

Change Stranamics BV/The Netherlands

 Appeared earlier in Petfood Industry’s E-Newsletter

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