NPD Process Tools

There are two classes of tools to support product development: design tools and management tools as shown in the following diagram.


A lot of attention has been given to the design tools over the last two decades. Management tools have received less attention. Project management tools have the longest tradition of use. Product Data Management (also known as Product Information Management and Collaborative Product Commerce) tools have been on the scene since the late 80’s. Requirements Management tools are lessor known tools used to manage the requirements and specifications associated with complex products. More recently, a new class of tools has emerged to support managing the NPD process and serving as a repository for other documents that are not typically managed by a Product Data Management system.

Therefore, there are three primary tools that most companies wanting to achieve a mature and well-managed process and data will put in place. These tools, shown below, each other to a degree and will have logical interfaces.


While the functions of project management and product data management systems are well-known, NPD procss management tools are new to many people. These NPD process management tools typically provide the following functions:

  • Plan and manage a project portfolio
  • Support pipeline management with resource planning and analysis of pipeline flow
  • Document the NPD process in the form of stages/phases, gates, process flows, activities, deliverables, and responsibilities
  • Provide templates for deliverable documents
  • Provide process flexibility by allowing for selection of the product development process to be used on a project
  • Support a phase-gate process with tracking phases and gate progress and distributing gate review documents to reviewers for approval
  • Serve as a repository for business documents/deliverables (as opposed to product data which is best managed with a product data management system)
  • Share project documents across the enterprise to team members and other authorized personnel
  • Provide access control to documents and files
  • Provide a collaboration platform for documents, activities and threaded discussions
  • Track status of projects and deliverables against the defined process
  • Coordinate process management with project management – project management schedules and responsibilities can be interfaced with process activities and deliverables
  • Process activity and deliverable status can be shared with project management systems
  • Provide monitoring and an overall summary of projects and their status

The objective of these tools is to:

  • Assure adherence to the process
  • Facilitate use of the process
  • Facilitate planning
  • Manage information/data/documents
  • Facilitate communication
  • Collect information on the status of the project relative to the process
  • Communicate upcoming process requirements, planned activities and status
  • Measure project performance

The Capability Maturity Model describes the stages of evolution in a process such as product development ranging from an ad-hoc and immature state to an optimized state. As companies strive to develop a more mature process, these tools can facilitate the objective of repeatability managed. This is required before the process can be optimized.

PD-Trak is an example of a low-cost, commercially-available NPD Process Management, Portfolio Management, and Pipeline Management tool.