Efforts continue to identify new product development (NPD) best practices. Examples of recognized studies include those by the Product Development and Management Association's Comparative Performance Assessment Study and the American Productivity Quality Center NPD best practices study. While these studies designate practices that distinguish top-performing companies, it is unclear whether NPD practitioners as a group (not just researchers) are knowledgeable about what represents a NPD best practice. The importance of this is that it offers insight into how NPD practitioners are translating potential NPD knowledge into actual NPD practice. In other words, are practitioners aware of and able to implement NPD best practices designated by noteworthy studies? The answer to this question ascertains a current state of the field toward understanding NPD best practice and the maturity level of various practices. Answering this question further contributes to our understanding of the diffusion of NPD best practices knowledge by NPD professionals, possibly identifying gaps between prescribed and actual practice.
Beginning the empirical examination by conducting a Delphi methodology with 20 leading innovation researchers, the study examined the likely dimensions of NPD and corresponding definitions to validate the NPD practices framework originally proposed by Kahn, Barczak, and Moss. A survey was then conducted with practitioners from the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland to gauge opinions about perceptions of the importance of different NPD dimensions, specific characteristics reflected by each of these dimensions, and the level of NPD practice maturity that these characteristics would represent. The study is therefore unique in that it relies on the opinions of NPD practitioners to see what they perceive as best practice versus prior studies where the researcher has identified and prescribed best practices.
Results of the present study find that seven NPD dimensions are recommended, whereas the 2006Kahn, Barczak, and Moss framework had suggested six dimensions. Among practitioners across the three country contexts, there is consensus on which dimensions are more important, providing evidence that NPD dimensions may be generalizable across Western contexts. Strategy was rated higher than any of the other dimensions followed by research, commercialization, and process. Project climate and metrics were perceived as the lowest in importance. The high weighting on strategy and low weighting on metrics and project climate reinforce previous best practice findings. Regarding the characteristics of each best practice dimension, practitioners appear able to distinguish what constitutes poor versus best practice, but consensus on distinguishing middle range practices are not as clear.
The suggested implications of these findings are that managers should emphasize strategy when undertaking NPD efforts and consider the fit of their projects with this strategy. The results further imply that there are clearly some poor practices that managers should avoid and best practices to which managers should ascribe. For academics, the results strongly suggest a need to do a better job of diffusing NPD knowledge and research on best practices. Particular attention by academics to the issues of metrics, project climate, and company culture appears warranted.