Nov 072011

The PDMA (Product Development Management Association) describes itself as “the premier advocate and comprehensive resource for the profession of product development and innovation.” The organization has been around quite a long time. Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend their 35th annual conference.

My goal in attending was to try and get a grasp of what the PDMA is about. To that end, I spent most of the first day in the New Product Development Professional (NPDP) certification preparation session. This session skimmed through a massive amount of information, derived from the PDMA’s “Body of Knowledge.”

What I discovered is that anyone who manages to get certified as a New Product Development Professional will have to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the entire product development process—from the fuzzy front-end of ideation, through to product delivery. The only part of the process that doesn’t seem to be covered in detail is that bit in the middle that has to do with engineering.

Admittedly, in the session I attended, the presenters did mention a few terms such as “CAD” and “CAE” – but only in passing.

It took me a while to figure out, but the PDMA seems to focus on the parts of the product development process that are common to a large number of industries. Product engineering is not one of those common parts. While the organization does sponsor some events which discuss Product Lifecycle Management (such as one in Southern California, coming up on Tuesday, November 15), the subject isn’t core to the PDMA’s mission.

Here’s my take: If you are an experienced product designer/engineer, studying to get the PDMA’s NPDP certification will force you to learn the full gamut of product development, including strategy, teams and organizational structure, processes, tools and metrics, market research, and portfolio management. It will “connect the dots,” helping you to understand better why new product projects fail (or succeed.)