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Keywords:

  • new product development;
  • design;
  • project management

Abstract

This article examines the intersection of the project management body of knowledge with new product development (NPD). The area under examination is the development of consumer products that have a significant engineering production content. It is concluded that the project management method, with its structured task definition and software tools, is generally useful for managing NPD projects. However, in some areas, project management incompletely meets the needs of NPD. Specifically, NPD is characterized by complex interrelated activities and large uncertainties about precisely which solution path will be taken, such that the full scope of the project can often not be anticipated beforehand. The article identifies that more research is required to validate the stage-gate and lean project management methods. Whereas cost is the primary focus in project management, with NPD there is a need to consider both cost and income (from product sales) in making strategic decisions. Communication and human resource management are important factors in NPD success, but existing project management perspectives have little to say about the social and behavioral aspects, such as organizational culture, team dynamics, and leadership styles, especially not for NPD. Current project management practices are very much based on “output control” (targets, appraisal, rewards, management by objectives), which the human resource management literature identifies as inhibiting innovation. There is also likely to exist an intersection, as yet poorly understood, between project management and knowledge management, particularly for innovation processes such as NPD. For practitioners, the main message is that the project management method provides a basic, but imperfect, tool for managing NPD. The relevance for researchers is that gaps have been identified in the project management method as it is currently applied to NPD. Several places are identified where further research is required to (a) better understand the causality between factors (e.g., human resource management) and project success and (b) adapt project management methods to better serve the NPD process.