What is Front-End Innovation?

by | Mar 31, 2021 | Innovation

The innovation process generally takes place in three parts: front-end innovation, new product development process and commercialization. Front-end innovation is a crucial part of every successful innovation process; choices made at the front-end will eventually determine the most promising innovation options that should be considered for development and commercialization.

Front-end involves the early and creative phases of the innovation process from corporate strategy to product development. It provides everything including innovation strategy and concepts, corporate foresight, search fields, business plans, road mapping, idea evaluation and more. Henceforth, the quality of the work done in the front-end is decisive for the success of the innovation process.  

Furthermore, front-end innovation ensures that no opportunities are missed by identifying them in early stages and introducing innovative concepts from the beginning before any formal development process. It’s the part where exciting breakthroughs take place and where decisions to invest resources efficiently are made.

Development teams who participate in front-end innovation create, evaluate, analyze and iterate different innovation concepts and ideas before choosing the one who has the most potential and represent the best opportunity for the business. 

What is fuzzy front end?

Given its unpredictable and unstructured character compared to standard linear processes, the front-end innovation stage is also called “fuzzy” front-end. Fuzzy front-end consists of a group of activities that are carried out from innovation to the first phase of the new product development process. It requires a certain level of openness and flexibility so that new ideas can be handled efficiently and new opportunities can be discovered in innovation projects.

Fuzzy front-end innovation employs various techniques such as brainstorming and market research to discover new search fields, trends and ideas without overlooking or neglecting any of them and rather including and processing them immediately in the system. 

To successfully manage fuzzy front-end, team members must :

  • Combine multiple skill sets, tools and methodologies from different disciplines to be able to have global in-depth information and insights that will help them shape the development of valuable innovations
  • Have full awareness and knowledge about consumers needs, values, mindsets and expectations
  • Synthesize and clarify competitive opportunities in order to pick the most effective starting points for innovation
  • Help management understand the team’s choices early on prior to investing time and resources in them
  • Always take into consideration customer feedback in order to develop their next product or solutions

The fuzzy front-end innovation process relies on five essential steps which are enacted in a non-sequential way to allow discovery, flexibility and creativity to include new topics and ideas at any given time. The process must continue running like this until all team members are jointly satisfied and confident in the results to move forward to the product development stage.

 

What is the purpose of front end innovation?

The main purpose of front end innovation is to help businesses identify innovation opportunities. A lot of companies use innovation to gain competitive advantages and attract more customers, but the issue is that they usually don’t know exactly the area in which they should innovate or the fields of innovation available in their market segment. As an example, innovation can be leveraged in different areas of a business such as organizational innovation, service innovation, digital business models and more.

The aim here is to clarify ideas as much as possible and develop fields of innovation that are described as precisely as possible. In this sense, front-end innovation is carried out as follows :  

  1. Market observation : front-end innovation leverages various activities to observe developments among competitors and identify the most promising ones at an early stage. Collecting and evaluating relevant insights about emerging developments within the market gives the company all the necessary information to seize potentially great opportunities.

 

  1. Evaluate trends : this consists in using techniques such as trend analysis to evaluate different types of trends related to the company’s industry but also the overall economy and society. These can include industry trends, technological trends, special trends… A good evaluation of trends allows the company to see their effect on the business and on its future competitiveness.


Analyze hidden customer needs : one of the most important activities conducted in front-end innovation is the analysis and anticipation of customer needs. A customer-centered approach is always fruitful to the business who adapts it. Techniques such as observing customers in their everyday lives or conducting in-depth interviews and surveys can help the company get relevant insights, suggestions and ideas for improvement and even for the creation of new innovative products and services.

What is the process of new product development?

After a successful fuzzy front-end that helped the company understand its consumers, markets and competitors, it is now time to move on the next step of innovation management, also known as the new product development process.

New product development is the process that takes a product or a service from conception to the market. It opens a whole new market for the company to fill a consumer demand or an opportunity in the marketplace. Sometimes existing products are launched into new markets, rebranded or commercialized differently. This can improve the company’s use of resources or broaden its segments and market shares.

The process of new product development includes generating ideas, drafting concepts, designing the product, product development, defining marketing strategies and more. Here are the eight major steps of this process :

1. Idea generation

The new product development process always starts with generating ideas. Idea generation refers to the active search for new product ideas. By performing a basic scan of your business, you can generate hundreds and even thousands of ideas, to finally narrow it down to a handful of good ones.

To generate new ideas, the company can use different sources such as its Research & Development department, contributions from employees, current marketing trends, customer insights, etc. This will help the company focus on the most promising ideas to explore them freely and find the ones that bring the most customer value.

2. Idea screening

The next step is idea screening. In this step, an objective group or committee starts filtering ideas to pick out the good ones, according to your criteria, they decide whether to continue or drop a project.

If the idea generation step is all about having a maximum number of ideas, the goal of idea screening is to reduce that number. Therefore, the management evaluates a project’s feasibility and potential success in order to keep the ideas that are likely to turn into profitable products and drop the ideas that could waste time and resources.

3. Concept development and testing

After the screening, successful ideas must be developed into a product concept. A product concept is a detailed version of the new product idea that best fulfils previously defined user requirements. Concept development creates detailed, exhaustive project concepts and the most attractive concept is chosen to guide the design and development of the product.

But before that, the concept has to undergo some tests with groups of target customers. By doing this, the company can determine whether that particular concept has strong consumer appeal or not.

First, the concept is introduced to customers either symbolically or physically through an in-depth presentation. Then, after showcasing proper understanding of the product, customers should be able to say whether they want or need it and if it detains a strong customer value or not. Customer feedback helps the company adjust its product as well as give them some marketing ideas.

4. Business case analysis

In this step, the company has fully formed its product; the concept has been validated internally and externally. Therefore, teams can start to develop the business case by determining the development time, evaluating the attractiveness of the new product, reviewing potential sales, costs and profits and other relevant data. All of this data will allow the company to analyze the new product’s financial performance and attractiveness.  If the results obtained satisfy the company’s expectations and objectives, the product can move on to the product development phase.  

5. Product development

In this step the product is brought to life and developed. Once formal engineering specifications are created and final quality checks are made, the R&D department begins to develop and test the physical version of the product also known as the prototype. They improve it along the way until the final version of the product is made and ready to be marketed. The R&D team addresses manufacturing methods, packaging and testing to ensure that the product can perform safely and effectively.

6. Marketing strategies development

After the product has been developed, tested and approved. The next step in the new product development process is to develop marketing strategies. An initial marketing strategy helps the company plan the introduction of the new product in the market. A successful marketing strategy must include the following :

  • A full description of the target market, added-value proposition, potential sales, market shares and profit goals for the first few years
  • A clear plan of the distribution of the product, its price and the marketing budget for the first year  
  • The marketing mix strategy
  • Long-term profit goals and planned sales

7. Test marketing

The last step before the launch and commercialization of the new product is test marketing. In this step, everything including the concept, product and marketing strategies are tested in realistic market settings to give the marketer a real-time experience before fully introducing it to the market.

In fact, the company tests the entire marketing program of the product including targeting, positioning, promoting, advertising, packaging, distribution channels… before making any further investment. By doing this, the company is able to determine the right amount of marketing necessary for this new product and prevents itself from overspending or wasting valuable resources.

8. Commercialization

The final step of the new product development process is the launch and commercialization of the new product. The marketing and launch plans are finalized and ready to be activated. At this stage, the launch has been carefully planned and the commercialization teams are fully prepared to introduce the new product to the market. They have already picked the perfect introduction timing and place to ensure that the launch has maximum impact.

At last, the new product becomes a part of the company’s portfolio so the product management team must ensure continuous support and improvements of the product. Moreover, as the whole product development process is coming to an end, the most important focus must remain on creating superior customer value. To do this, it’s important to set up a technical support team to monitor customer needs.  

Discover our solutions in product development!

 

The innovation process generally takes place in three parts: front-end innovation, new product development process and commercialization. Front-end innovation is a crucial part of every successful innovation process; choices made at the front-end will eventually determine the most promising innovation options that should be considered for development and commercialization.

Front-end involves the early and creative phases of the innovation process from corporate strategy to product development. It provides everything including innovation strategy and concepts, corporate foresight, search fields, business plans, road mapping, idea evaluation and more. Henceforth, the quality of the work done in the front-end is decisive for the success of the innovation process. 

Furthermore, front-end innovation ensures that no opportunities are missed by identifying them in early stages and introducing innovative concepts from the beginning before any formal development process. It’s the part where exciting breakthroughs take place and where decisions to invest resources efficiently are made.

Development teams who participate in front-end innovation create, evaluate, analyze and iterate different innovation concepts and ideas before choosing the one who has the most potential and represent the best opportunity for the business.

What is fuzzy front end?

Given its unpredictable and unstructured character compared to standard linear processes, the front-end innovation stage is also called “fuzzy” front-end. Fuzzy front-end consists of a group of activities that are carried out from innovation to the first phase of the new product development process. It requires a certain level of openness and flexibility so that new ideas can be handled efficiently and new opportunities can be discovered in innovation projects.

Fuzzy front-end innovation employs various techniques such as brainstorming and market research to discover new search fields, trends and ideas without overlooking or neglecting any of them and rather including and processing them immediately in the system.

To successfully manage fuzzy front-end, team members must :

  • Combine multiple skill sets, tools and methodologies from different disciplines to be able to have global in-depth information and insights that will help them shape the development of valuable innovations
  • Have full awareness and knowledge about consumers needs, values, mindsets and expectations
  • Synthesize and clarify competitive opportunities in order to pick the most effective starting points for innovation
  • Help management understand the team’s choices early on prior to investing time and resources in them
  • Always take into consideration customer feedback in order to develop their next product or solutions

The fuzzy front-end innovation process relies on five essential steps which are enacted in a non-sequential way to allow discovery, flexibility and creativity to include new topics and ideas at any given time. The process must continue running like this until all team members are jointly satisfied and confident in the results to move forward to the product development stage.

 

What is the purpose of front end innovation?

The main purpose of front end innovation is to help businesses identify innovation opportunities. A lot of companies use innovation to gain competitive advantages and attract more customers, but the issue is that they usually don’t know exactly the area in which they should innovate or the fields of innovation available in their market segment. As an example, innovation can be leveraged in different areas of a business such as organizational innovation, service innovation, digital business models and more.

The aim here is to clarify ideas as much as possible and develop fields of innovation that are described as precisely as possible. In this sense, front-end innovation is carried out as follows : 

Market observation : front-end innovation leverages various activities to observe developments among competitors and identify the most promising ones at an early stage. Collecting and evaluating relevant insights about emerging developments within the market gives the company all the necessary information to seize potentially great opportunities.

 

Evaluate trends : this consists in using techniques such as trend analysis to evaluate different types of trends related to the company’s industry but also the overall economy and society. These can include industry trends, technological trends, special trends… A good evaluation of trends allows the company to see their effect on the business and on its future competitiveness.

 

  1. Analyze hidden customer needs : one of the most important activities conducted in front-end innovation is the analysis and anticipation of customer needs. A customer-centered approach is always fruitful to the business who adapts it. Techniques such as observing customers in their everyday lives or conducting in-depth interviews and surveys can help the company get relevant insights, suggestions and ideas for improvement and even for the creation of new innovative products and services. 

 

What is the process of new product development?

After a successful fuzzy front-end that helped the company understand its consumers, markets and competitors, it is now time to move on the next step of innovation management, also known as the new product development process.

New product development is the process that takes a product or a service from conception to the market. It opens a whole new market for the company to fill a consumer demand or an opportunity in the marketplace. Sometimes existing products are launched into new markets, rebranded or commercialized differently. This can improve the company’s use of resources or broaden its segments and market shares.

The process of new product development includes generating ideas, drafting concepts, designing the product, product development, defining marketing strategies and more. Here are the eight major steps of this process :

 

1. Idea generation

The new product development process always starts with generating ideas. Idea generation refers to the active search for new product ideas. By performing a basic scan of your business, you can generate hundreds and even thousands of ideas, to finally narrow it down to a handful of good ones.

To generate new ideas, the company can use different sources such as its Research & Development department, contributions from employees, current marketing trends, customer insights, etc. This will help the company focus on the most promising ideas to explore them freely and find the ones that bring the most customer value.

 

2. Idea screening

The next step is idea screening. In this step, an objective group or committee starts filtering ideas to pick out the good ones, according to your criteria, they decide whether to continue or drop a project.

If the idea generation step is all about having a maximum number of ideas, the goal of idea screening is to reduce that number. Therefore, the management evaluates a project’s feasibility and potential success in order to keep the ideas that are likely to turn into profitable products and drop the ideas that could waste time and resources.

 

3. Concept development and testing

After the screening, successful ideas must be developed into a product concept. A product concept is a detailed version of the new product idea that best fulfils previously defined user requirements. Concept development creates detailed, exhaustive project concepts and the most attractive concept is chosen to guide the design and development of the product.

But before that, the concept has to undergo some tests with groups of target customers. By doing this, the company can determine whether that particular concept has strong consumer appeal or not.

First, the concept is introduced to customers either symbolically or physically through an in-depth presentation. Then, after showcasing proper understanding of the product, customers should be able to say whether they want or need it and if it detains a strong customer value or not. Customer feedback helps the company adjust its product as well as give them some marketing ideas.

 

4. Business case analysis

In this step, the company has fully formed its product; the concept has been validated internally and externally. Therefore, teams can start to develop the business case by determining the development time, evaluating the attractiveness of the new product, reviewing potential sales, costs and profits and other relevant data. All of this data will allow the company to analyze the new product’s financial performance and attractiveness.  If the results obtained satisfy the company’s expectations and objectives, the product can move on to the product development phase. 

 

5. Product development

In this step the product is brought to life and developed. Once formal engineering specifications are created and final quality checks are made, the R&D department begins to develop and test the physical version of the product also known as the prototype. They improve it along the way until the final version of the product is made and ready to be marketed. The R&D team addresses manufacturing methods, packaging and testing to ensure that the product can perform safely and effectively.

 

6. Marketing strategies development

After the product has been developed, tested and approved. The next step in the new product development process is to develop marketing strategies. An initial marketing strategy helps the company plan the introduction of the new product in the market. A successful marketing strategy must include the following :

  • A full description of the target market, added-value proposition, potential sales, market shares and profit goals for the first few years
  • A clear plan of the distribution of the product, its price and the marketing budget for the first year 
  • The marketing mix strategy
  • Long-term profit goals and planned sales

 

7. Test marketing

The last step before the launch and commercialization of the new product is test marketing. In this step, everything including the concept, product and marketing strategies are tested in realistic market settings to give the marketer a real-time experience before fully introducing it to the market.

In fact, the company tests the entire marketing program of the product including targeting, positioning, promoting, advertising, packaging, distribution channels… before making any further investment. By doing this, the company is able to determine the right amount of marketing necessary for this new product and prevents itself from overspending or wasting valuable resources.

 

8. Commercialization

The final step of the new product development process is the launch and commercialization of the new product. The marketing and launch plans are finalized and ready to be activated. At this stage, the launch has been carefully planned and the commercialization teams are fully prepared to introduce the new product to the market. They have already picked the perfect introduction timing and place to ensure that the launch has maximum impact.

At last, the new product becomes a part of the company’s portfolio so the product management team must ensure continuous support and improvements of the product. Moreover, as the whole product development process is coming to an end, the most important focus must remain on creating superior customer value. To do this, it’s important to set up a technical support team to monitor customer needs. 

 

Discover our solutions in product development!