PERSPECTIVE: Trends and Drivers of Success in NPD Practices: Results of the 2003 PDMA Best Practices Study


  • *All authors contributed equally. The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Marjorie Adams, who was the manager of PDMA's third Best Practices project.

Address correspondence to: Abbie Griffin, David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah, 1645 E. Campus Center Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84112. Tel.: (801) 585-1772. E-mail:


Since 1990, the Product Development & Management Association (PDMA) has sponsored best practice research projects to identify trends in new product development (NPD) management practices and to discern which practices are associated with higher degrees of success. The objective of this ongoing research is to assist managers in determining how to improve their own product development methods and practices. This paper presents results, recommendations, and implications for NPD practice stemming from PDMA's third best practices study, which was conducted in 2003. In the eight years since the previous best practices study was conducted, firms have become slightly more conservative in the portfolio of projects, with lower percentages of the total number of projects in the new-to-the-world and new-to-the-firm categories. Although success rates and development efficiencies have remained stable, this more conservative approach to NPD seems to have negatively impacted the sales and profits impact of the new products that have been commercialized. As formal processes for NPD are now the norm, attention is moving to managing the multiple projects across the portfolio in a more orchestrated manner. Finally, firms are implementing a wide variety of software support tools for various aspects of NPD. NPD areas still seriously in need of improved management include idea management, project leadership and training, cross-functional training and team communication support, and innovation support and leadership by management. In terms of aspects of NPD management that differentiate the “best from the rest,” the findings indicate that the best firms emphasize and integrate their innovation strategy across all the levels of the firm, better support their people and team communications, conduct extensive experimentation, and use numerous kinds of new methods and techniques to support NPD. All companies appear to continue to struggle with the recording of ideas and making them readily available to others in the organization, even the best. What remains unclear is whether there is a preferable approach for organizing the NPD endeavor, as no one organizational approach distinguished top NPD performers.