The new product development process : small firm success by studying larger firms

Van Zyl, Wiehann (2008-03)

Thesis (MScEng (Industrial Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


The aim of this research was to investigate new product development practices for application to small businesses. Although larger companies, in general, have well-established practices from which smaller companies can benefit, product development in smaller businesses tends to be less formalised and less well described. Hence, this research is aimed at breaching this gap and addressing the need of the small business environment. The first few chapters of the study describe the investigation of product development in its general form. This provides an overview of what product development and the execution of the process in particular entails. Control mechanisms that are used to counter and manage unwanted behaviours that may occur during the process are also discussed. A generic product development process is then discussed in detail, based on research carried out on small- and medium-sized enterprises. The initial literature discussion in the first few chapters thus highlights the need to control and manage product development, and shows where pitfalls occur that could be detrimental to product success. This is followed by an investigation to establish the extent to which companies realise the impact the development process could have on product success. As the focus of this study revolves around small businesses that are growing, the use of phase review criteria as it pertains to companies with well-established product development practices was investigated, together with the role of product development in other business activities. The most important aim of this study was to develop a new product development framework that could be used in the small business environment. Seven key best practices were eventually identified, which are discussed in turn, together with their key underlying and component principles. The results are summarised and used to draw up the framework. The framework is summarised in a way that provides concise detail, which makes it useful even without any accompanying information. The last part of the study was aimed at validating the results of the framework. This was done by means of a survey and one-on-one interviews with a group of carefully selected participants who were involved in small businesses developments. The participants completed a questionnaire indicating the relevance of the framework for their enterprises. Useful information was obtained through this feedback and this yielded positive results. Having validated the framework for application in the small business environment, the thesis ends with the proposals for improving the framework.

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