A need-based approach to product development

Sammanfattning: In manufacturing industry, a developing view of life-cycle commitments has in turn triggered an interest in development processes for incorporated physical artefacts. In fact, this new scenario is an expansion of the core manufacturing business such that not only the manufactured artefact but also its functionality can be contracted for. Thus, an emphasis on development of goods becomes an emphasis on development of goods and services combined - a functional product. Such development process is not straightforward since goods and services might otherwise be developed in distinct ways. A service, for instance, is performed as an activity and is partly co- produced with the user and/or customer. Based on this it can be argued that a service is also oftentimes partly customized in some sense. A core competence within the strand of service development would therefore have to be an understanding of customers needs. In contrast, within the strand of product development a core competence is to transform a market opportunity into an engineered physical product ready to launch. Each of these strands builds on different logics in the development processes. Within a Functional Product Development process an integration of these two worlds - the understanding of needs and the development of a physical product - is expected to support the design of physical artefacts aimed for life-cycle commitments. Embarking from an assumption that an understanding of customers', users' and/or peoples' needs is likely to provide useful insights into Functional Product Development processes, this thesis aims to shed light on input into early phases of product development. Previous studies, presented in the appended papers, indicate that ‘needs' - which people cannot readily articulate - are not fully recognized in product development literature or explicitly managed in industry. Thus, building on the results from these studies, the work in this thesis elaborates essentially on two theoretical knowledge domains, i.e., product development and Needfinding. In Needfinding, a main principle is to look for needs, not for solutions. To do so, the methods to generate customer information are focused on data related to what people actually are striving to achieve when taking actions. Hence, goals, contexts, actions and behaviours matter and are probed for by the Needfinding team. A common approach is a combination of methods relying on observations and interviews. In practice, the way in which the study is undertaken will be context dependent. The search for data should be performed by a multidisciplinary team, in which the idea is that designers should participate. In view of the identified differences it can be concluded that the input from a needs-based approach differs in terms of the kind of data that would result in a need statement. Such an approach provides rich and contextual information about people's activities and goals, while a typical product development approach provides rich and detailed information about the products that customers use. Thus, a need-based approach supports innovative and new products and traditional product development seems to support improvement of existing products. Yet both are important to develop functional products. The challenge of integrating the two stances is identified as related to cultural and historical formative issues. Designers are well acquainted with product improvement from a technical point of view, but needs identification is likely to require a non-trivial shift in perspective and in particular will rely on a broadly sociological ability - the ability to observe human beings.