Abbott Laboratories

Uncovering Customer Needs for Breakthrough Drugs and Treatments


  • Spiraling R&D costs
  • Ad hoc product definition process
  • Facilitating teamwork between R&D and Marketing


  • Metrics around new product development process
  • R&D cost control
  • Sharpened focus on the most important requirements; limited requirements creep
  • New insights from face-to-face worldwide customer contact
  • R&D and Marketing teamed up in creative forum for greater involvement and commitment


  • Assessment
  • Change Management
  • Market-Driven Product Definition (MDPD®)

Abbott Laboratories faced the issue of spiraling R&D costs with the same energy and commitment they have for discovering new drugs, treatments, and diagnostics.

Rigor and discipline are hardly new to Abbott, but rigor and discipline were exactly what Abbott needed for a product definition process that was too ad hoc. "We had processes -- one for every project! We had random formats; we communicated design goals poorly," says Tag Van Winkle, Abbott project manager. "It was time to standardize. We used to have the luxury of developing products that we wanted to put out; we'd get them into the market to see how they did, then if they weren't quite right, we'd put another one out." 

Abbott, in collaboration with PDC, implemented Market-Driven Product Definition (MDPD). This standardized process provided them with a common method for gathering and evaluating input, put the scientists and developers face-to-face with customers and ensured that customer input became part of the design standard.

MDPD enables cross-functional teams to share in a common purpose and commitment. The process helps team members uncover true product requirements that would "delight" the customer by exposing them to the setting in which potential products are used. The result limits future requirements creep. The additional effort Abbott spent on the "fuzzy front-end" reduced their R&D costs and enabled them to release products with high market acceptance.