The Front End of New Product Development is where:
- Users and stakeholders are identified
- Personas (i.e. users) and Scenarios (i.e. what they do) are created
- Gaps between current products and user needs/desires are identified
- Potential market size and competitors are assessed
- The right questions for surveys and the right tasks for usability tests are identified
- The all-important prototyping, usability testing, depth interviews, appeal assessment and ideation occur
- The Product Concept is defined and refined
- The Market Definition is refined
- Pricing Analysis is done
- Technical feasibility is assessed
The result of the Front End of NPD is a well-refined Product Concept that is certified as having Appeal and Value to users—in other words: is useful, usable and desirable, as well as technically feasible.
In many ways, the most difficult part of NPD is the beginning, invariably called the ‘Front End’ in contemporary NPD literature, with variations such as the ‘Front End of Innovation’ or the ‘Fuzzy Front End.’ One reason for the difficulty is that Front End is inherently qualitative in nature. Except for those disposed to and trained in qualitative inquiry, doing work without hard-and-fast rules is extremely difficult.
The insights gained during a well-run NPD Front End process are absolutely essential input (either directly or indirectly) to so many other downstream NPD activities, that ignoring the Front End has the potential to doom a project to failure.