Selecting success measures for product development

The measures selected are related to the company's business strategy and the level of knowledge and skills in the company. The company must be clear about the measures and if possible choose quantitative measurements (Beaumont, 1996; Hultink and Robben, 1996). The degree of detail in a measure can be very specific, such as the time taken for product design, or can be general such as the percentage of sales that are new products, but it needs to be appropriate, considered, specified and agreed. There is a need to set the measures, benchmarking and targets before the product development programme and the individual product development project are started, so that everyone involved realises how the final success and failure is to be judged (Zangwill, 1993). Benchmarks set beforehand tend to be less influenced by particular events and circumstances.

Performance measures ^ Benchmarking ^ Targets against performance measures

There is a need to look forward, to set up measures for the project's likely success; and also to look backward to assess actual performance against the predicted targets. Once the targets are set, they need to be communicated to all the people and departments involved in product development. At the end of the project, the data from the project are collected and analysed, and improvements identified. For every project, the measures need to be reviewed and set again (Beaumont, 1996). The aim is to have one of the highest success rates for product development in the industry and measures, benchmarks and targets have to be set for the product development programme to achieve this.

The balance of products in the product portfolio, on which the product development programme is based, is also another important measure. The product portfolio is the collection of products manufactured and/or marketed by a company, and it needs to be analysed to give the maximum long-term effects from scarce company resources. The long-term success of the company depends on having some products that generate cash now and other products that use cash to develop the future. All product portfolios include the new product, the growing product, the present breadwinner and the dying product; this succession needs to be preserved for long-term company viability. The product development programme needs to be measured to see it is ensuring the entry of new products and helping the growing product by quality improvements and variety, the mature product by major relaunches, and the dying product by cost reductions.

The techniques used to measure success depend on the knowledge already in the company and the amount of information that can be collected during the project and product launch. Obviously some large companies have detailed databases, extensive staff knowledge and money to collect and summarise the project data. Their measures are more quantitative than with the small company, but for a specific market, the small company can have as accurate a success measure because of close relationships within the market and the company.

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