What Are the Challenges of New Product Development?

Jan Fletcher

Two common challenges of new product development include global competition and time pressure. Stiff competition from existing or emerging companies may also be a negative factor at work when developing new products for the market. Other challenges stem from the continual emergence of more sophisticated manufacturing technology, and the element of unpredictability in creative development. Internal politics may also come into play. Instituting feedback mechanisms during the developmental process, and building cross-functional teams are two strategies often used to meet the challenges.

Research and development (R&D) is the process for development and cultivation of new products.
Research and development (R&D) is the process for development and cultivation of new products.

Global competition is often a major factor impacting the challenges of new product development. Since the playing field is large and diverse, often spanning the globe, it may be very difficult for companies to gather intelligence on competitors. A company may invest heavily in a new product, yet be unaware that an overseas competitor is set to release a similar product imminently. As a result, shepherding a new product from concept to market is often done under intense time pressure, as product developers attempt to bring the product to market ahead of their competition.

Rapid advancement of technology may be considered by many to be among the top challenges of new product development. A technological arms race may put product developers in a precarious position of uncertainty. Product developers may not know what the next development might be. If a firm chooses a pathway to creating functionality using a form of technology that may be soon obsolete, the company’s investors could lose a sizable investment.

The unpredictable nature of the creative process can be among the top challenges of new product development. Team dynamics and internal politics also may derail the creative collaboration needed to move product development forward. To prevent such scenarios, product developers may utilize various feedback mechanisms that may help them avoid lengthy investment that turns into a dead end. These could consist of development team meetings held at certain strategic points in the development process, in which such threats are discussed. Based on conclusions of team members, solutions then may be developed to keep the project on track.

Cross-functional teams also may address some of the more pernicious challenges of new product development. A richer, more diverse staffing structure often adds depth and resilience to the development process. A milestone approval process may be used to head off a situation in which team members could delay the project through personality conflicts, or lobbying for a favored approach over another approach.

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