Almost every NPD project (New Product Development) will be affected by some constraint from one of the three major governing project factors, cost, scope, and time (also known as cost, quality, and time).

The 3 key constraints of an NPD project

Here is a visual representation of how these three constraints can result in a ‘trade-off’ in order to complete the project and get the product/s to market:

tradeoff triangleImage courtesy of:

Let’s look in more detail at what these constraints and their typical trade-offs are:

  1. Cost: This is the financial constraints of a project, also referred to as the project budget.
  2. Scope: These are the tasks required to complete the project and bring it to market
  3. Time: This is the project schedule that is required to bring the project to market

These three constraints provide a framework for the project management team to work within and there is often a trade-off between these in order to bring the project to market.

The typical trade-offs are lower cost requirement, but you can’t have the same level of quality, or a short time to launch is required, therefore you need to spend more money. Only two of the constraints can be fixed and the other needs to flex.


Can we go deeper and more granular into how to manage New Product Development trade-offs?

These three main constraints (above) can be broken down into a more granular model giving even greater clarity and flexibility to the project.

Based on the work by Eric P. Rose, there are five constraints that can be used within the NPD process:

managing npd project tradeoffs pentagon
Image courtesy of:


  1. Features: A list of features the customer is willing to pay for or which will give you a competitive advantage.
  2. Schedule: This is the project timeline, maybe this is a major factor it you need to launch at a trade show or enter the market before Christmas.
  3. Cost: Product cost at launch can always be improved upon post-launch, this is always something to consider.
  4. Development cost: The development cycle may require multiple iterations before the product is signed off and ready to move into production. There needs to be resources and materials for this phase of development.
  5. Capital Equipment Costs (CapEx): Maybe a product feature needs specific tooling for it to be created, maybe that feature can be produced with alternative production methods.

These more granular constraints offer those involved in bringing new products to market who face numerous trade-offs a better way to frame their decisions.


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