Many manufacturers have established product development activities in different countries around the world. Yet their senior managers often struggle to tie those decentralized organizations into a cohesive, unified operation that can efficiently drive growth and innovation. New empirical frameworks may help unlock practices with which managers can deploy well-coordinated global product development strategies.
Globalization pressures have begun to have a major impact on the practice of product development across a wide range of industries. A new paradigm has emerged whereby companies are utilizing skilled engineering teams dispersed around the world to develop products in a collaborative manner. Best practice in product development (PD) is now rapidly migrating from local, cross-functional collaboration to a mode of global collaboration. Global product development (GPD) therefore represents a major transformation for business, and it applies to a broad range of industries.
The objective of this article is to present frameworks that can help companies address various strategic and tactical issues when considering adoption of GPD. The concepts have been developed mainly through detailed discussions with managers at more than 100 companies in 15 countries in North America, Europe and Asia. Some data are from a recently completed study on GPD that product development company PTC has conducted with BusinessWeek Research Services, interviewing and surveying more than 1,100 engineering managers worldwide. (See “About the Research.”)
In our discussions with managers, many have found the ideas, frameworks and perspectives presented in this article to be helpful in addressing the transformation to global product development and its implementation today. There is no blueprint, but senior managers can more effectively plan for global product development and take fuller advantage of its promise by examining the various strategies, staged approaches and key success factors described herein and adapting those insights to their own unique set of circumstances.
Defining Global Product Development
Several best practices in product development evolved through the 1980s and 1990s.