Product Development

Product developers enjoyed a fairly predictable environment for most of last century. After the arrival of the assembly line early in the century, changes in design and manufacturing were incremental and companies of all kinds could easily adopt and then benefit from new practices. But over the past 30 years, product developers have had to stay on their toes as the processes, tools, and environment in which they work have grown more complex and sophisticated.

Marketing departments could no longer study a proposed new product for a few months then just send a sheet of specs to engineering. And engineering could no longer work independently and then throw the design over the wall to operations with subsequent changes to the design based on feedback from manufacturing. There was simply not enough time for that any more.

These helped put the spotlight on the idea of better understanding customer needs and requirements. Good companies realized there was not enough time to miss and misinterpret customer requirements and then redesign products to correct them.

Next, products were being tossed over the wall to sales. However, too many companies had months pass with little revenue while the sales force prepared the market and themselves for the sales cycle. Soon, new-product development had a commercialization phase and team and management postlaunch reviews. To help companies handle all the new steps and phases of product development, process-management software emerged. Companies that were behind could purchase it and quickly become competitive again.