Project management (PM) and new product development (NPD) are overlapping yet self-contained business systems. Project management often focuses on a few, concise deliverables while NPD encompasses a broad program for innovation. However, the scope and scale of a major project may dwarf a simple new product improvement effort and vice versa.
What is a Project?
Projects are defined as temporary endeavors implemented by a temporary team yielding a unique product, service, or result. The temporary nature of a project differentiates it from on-going operations and work. For example, bookkeeping is on-going work, but installing a new corporate-wide accounting software system is a project. Building a new refinery is a project, but producing diesel fuel from the refinery is an on-going operation. Managing sales and marketing of a product is on-going work, but developing the next generation product with an improved feature set is a project.
PM Process Groups
The work of a traditional project falls into five areas:
- Monitoring and controlling, and
Project management process groups are iterative and may repeat within the overall life cycle of a program. For instance, it is sometimes difficult to complete an action plan until implementation of the project has begun.
Within the initiating process group, the business case is developed to indicate why the project is being undertaken in the first instance. Reasons to conduct a project include market needs, technology advances, or regulatory requirements.
In initiating a project, key outcomes are to develop the project charter and to identify all stakeholders. The product innovation charter (PIC) is an important document for all NPD efforts linking the innovation strategy to how the NPD team will do the work of the project.
Planning is an extensive phase in proper project management. Plans should be developed in advance to describe the scope of work, schedule, budget, quality, risk, human resources, and communications. Managing communications among a broad and diverse group of stakeholders is a critical piece of work for successful project implementation.
Planning a project also includes outlining the specific processes, procedures, and policies that will be used to execute the new product development effort. For instance, most organizations use a structured NPD process with five stages/gates as follows.
- Stage 1 – Opportunity Identification
- Stage 2 – Idea Generation
- Stage 3 – Concept Evaluation
- Stage 4 – Technical Development
- Stage 5 – Commercial Product Launch
Executing a project is the time when the work of the project gets done. In NPD, work is done in the stages of the structured NPD process as indicated. Important processes that occur during project execution include acquiring and training team members, performing quality assurance, and directing the work of the project. Some specific tasks for a new product development team in executing a project include conducting market research studies, implementing innovation tools (like QFD) and designing the appropriate feature set to deliver to the customer.
Project execution is an intense but rewarding time for the technical teams in NPD. Every project is different and will follow a unique trajectory to commercialization. However, project execution should result in the expected outcomes that were laid out in the PIC and during the planning process group.
Monitoring and Controlling
Despite our best intentions, things don’t always work out as expected. The monitoring and controlling process group within project management is designed to catch project issues early so that plans can be adapted at the lowest cost. Adjusting plans early in the project will help the team still realize the full scope of work without significant impacts to the schedule.
Monitoring simply means measuring the expected outcomes of the project. There are a whole host of innovation metrics available to NPD teams to measure on-going project progress. It is critical, for example, to hold robust gate reviews and honestly evaluate the project progress with future plans. (For more information on robust gate reviews, please see Gatekeeper Training.) Likewise, portfolio management reviews offer additional opportunities to evaluate the business benefit of each NPD idea in comparison to all other available innovation projects.
Controlling is a process group that implements corrective actions based upon early warning signs in the project. While it may sound negative, control is a technique that is continually deployed to ensure alignment of the organization’s strategy, implementation, and individual project goals. In NPD, continual customer involvement allows a team to control innovation efforts to meet customer needs.
Finally, the closing process group is associated with terminating the temporary team and transferring the new product or service to the mainstream business. An important element of the closing group is the post-launch review, also known as a lessons learned review. These reviews not only evaluate the success of the product development effort, but also provide valuable feedback to the process so that future projects can benefit from the experience of the project team.
PM Process Groups
Developing a new product or service meets the definition of a project: a temporary team is convened to produce a unique result. Applying project management techniques to a new product development effort can improve governance and ensure consistency with other organizational disciplines. Project management and NPD systems both overlap and complement one another at the same time.
To learn more about project management or innovation processes, please contact Global NP Solutions at email@example.com or by phone at 281-280-8717 for additional details. You may also enjoy learning more about managing projects in an NPDP workshop. Workshops address the processes and best practices leading to successful NPD project implementation. NPDP workshops are held monthly through guided webinars or at your own pace in a cost-effective self-study format.
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