New product development is tough. That's an understatement. You've got market research to do, testing, manufacturing, the marketing launch to worry about. But before all that, you have got to break through the Fuzzy Front End of product development and innovation. Let's take a step back though....
What is the "Fuzzy Front End"?
The Fuzzy Front End is the 'end' or timezone where an idea is either approved for development or is terminated. Khurana and Rosenthal (1998) defined the fuzzy front end as "to include product strategy formulation and communication, opportunity identification and assessment, idea generation, product definition, project planning, and executive reviews" and paired their definition with the diagram below:
What makes the Fuzzy Front End so... ’fuzzy’?
In the The PDMA Glossary for New Product Development the fuzzy front end is described as consisting of 3 tasks – 1) strategic planning; 2) concept generation; and 3) pre-technical evaluation. These tasks are largely unstructured, and can often be chaotic and unpredictable, in contrast to the stage that follows (formal product development) which as you know, is much more structured. This is where the ‘fuzzy’ tag comes from – this chaos and lack of structure.
Fuzzy Front End activities/stages
Much like the fuzzy front end itself, there is a lack of certainty and consensus regarding the activities and stages that make up this stage of the product development process.
Koen et al’s New Concept Development model goes some way to resolving this. The model was created in 2001 in order to “provide a common language and insights on the front end activities”. The model’s 5 front-end elements are 1) Opportunity Identification; 2) Opportunity Analysis; 3) Idea Genesis - Vetter can help you there; and 4) Idea Selection; and 5) Concept and Technology Development.
Tips for breaking through
Fuzzy Front End links for further reading
Heather Saunders; ECITB Product Dev. Platform ManagerBook a Demo