One of the things that companies should prioritize in this day and age is innovation. Having an innovative mindset paves the way to new ideas and solutions – ones that can help you breathe life into an original product idea.
Creating a product, however, is no easy task. There are many factors you need to consider – from the steps in making it a reality to the different members of your team. That’s where product development comes in. But what is product development in the first place?
Keep reading this article to learn more about the foundations of product development.
Product development and its meaning
A simple way to define product development is to understand it as the entire journey involved in creating a new product. This covers the ideation of the product up until its market launch. It’s the process that you and your team must go through to make your concept of a product a reality.
When we look solely at product development’s definition, the process may seem easy. However, every product launch is different. Things don’t always go according to plan, and there’s really no foolproof blueprint to success.
Note that there are several crucial steps that can increase your chances of success. Some of them are more extensive than others, but all of them are equally important. But before we get into that, it’s important to know why you should follow a framework or a strategy in the first place.
The importance of a product development strategy
Maybe you’re asking yourself – if there’s no surefire way to create a well-performing product, why create a product development plan at all? That’s because having a plan takes into consideration market research and analysis.
This is crucial because you can’t successfully launch a product if you don’t understand what problem you’re trying to solve, or who it’s for.
And because your product will be backed by research, you have more opportunities to learn about similar products that failed, similar products that succeeded, and how you can leverage current market gaps for similar products.
Planning out each product development stage can also save time once you go through the different steps. That’s because you already laid out what you need to do and what each team member has to be doing. It also gives you a better understanding of the project as a whole.
Another thing about having a product development plan is that it helps with staying organized at work. By having something to guide you throughout the process, cross-functional collaboration is more seamless. This is especially true when you apply effective communication strategies.
Task management also becomes less complicated, and everyone will find it easier to stay on the same page.Ultimately, having a product development plan doesn’t ensure your success, but it definitely helps a lot.
Having a good framework can determine whether or not you achieve company goals and objectives, so it’s an important step you shouldn’t overlook!
The stages of product development
Now that you’ve answered the question, ‘What is product development?’, it's time to look at the specific stages that your team will go through when developing a new product. Although different industries may have iterations of product development stages and examples, the process generally has the same flow or steps.
1. Identify a need in the market
Every product development process starts with ideation. This means having brainstorming sessions with your team. You can begin by identifying today’s problems in the market. Once your team zeroes in on one, your next step would be to try and solve it.
You might get stuck on this first step because some teams search endlessly for the “perfect” idea. This is something you should avoid. Instead, keep an open mind. Bounce off ideas, no matter how out-of-the-box, and see which ones stick. This will help ideas flow, and maybe even connect with one another.
If you need help with ideation, you can try using the SCAMPER technique. It’s a model that helps you explore different perspectives to encourage fresh ideas.
S - Substitute (what can you replace?) C - Combine (what can you combine?) A - Adapt (what can you add?) M - Modify (what can you change?) P - Put to another use (what other uses does the product have?) E - Eliminate (what can you remove or simplify?) R - Reverse (what can be rearranged or done in reverse?)
The next time you have a brainstorm, try asking these questions about existing products. You can also gather insights by talking to your target market and studying data on the problem you’ve focused on. All of these will help you have high-level ideas on your product’s look and functionality.
2. Quantify the opportunity
Now that you have a problem you want to solve, figure out if it calls for a product-based solution. You need data that shows there is demand for the product you want to make. Research on the number of people the problem impacts, and whether or not people would be willing to pay for a solution.
3. Create a concept for a product
Once you’ve confirmed the need for your product, it’s time to start conceptualizing it. This means taking your initial idea and refining it further. Deep dive into the design of the product by answering specific questions.
What is the product’s value proposition? Have you finalized a product roadmap? What does the product look like? Are your product’s key features well-defined? Is everyone aligned on your key performance indicators (KPIs)? How does it align with your organizational strategy?
These are some of the questions you must answer during this stage. This is also the stage of product development where marketing might start getting included in the conversation.
Granted you don’t have your finished product yet, but it’s good to have a general idea on how to go about marketing on this product development stage.
4. Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Once you’re done with fine tuning the fundamental concept for your product, you can move onto creating a minimum viable product (MVP). This is a version of your product that has just its basic features. Doing this will help you see how the product works at this point.
After creating your MVP, you can have a small group of early customers test it out. This will help you gather feedback that you can use to further improve your product. It will also help you gauge how the market reacts to it, and if it’s something that resonates with your target audience.
5. Validate and test
Since creating an MVP should have helped you finalize your product’s design, it’s now time to validate and test it. First, it’s important to see if your product addressed the problem that you were trying to solve. Second, you should test the different aspects and functionalities of your product.
Check that everything works as it should, and that you’ve addressed potential problems that may arise. You can even use this stage of product development in testing your marketing efforts. Make sure your campaigns are all set and will be ready for the launch.
Naturally, you would want everything to go off without a hitch. However, if you encounter a big problem, there’s nothing wrong with going back to the conceptualization stage. This doesn’t mean you’ve hit a dead end – it just means you have more information to go with for your next attempt.
6. Commercialize and scale
Once your different testing phases are complete, you’re now ready to launch your product to the market. Make sure you find your perfect market fit or the audience that has the highest need for your product. Once you nail this down, you can look into scaling the distribution of your product.
Easily do this by using different channels to spread the word about your product. You can also run various marketing campaigns online and offline, and even get the help of sales agents or distributors based on your product.
What is product development all about?
One thing you should understand is that the product development process isn’t set in stone. There are times when you may need to redo certain steps depending on the results you gather. Research and feedback are also a big part of the process, which means the concept for your product can change along the way.
Also, note that the product development plan and examples of stages that we shared are just a guide. You can customize it depending on the needs of your project.
Ultimately, product development is about continuously learning how to solve the pain point you’ve chosen. Don’t get discouraged if you encounter challenges along the way. You should always remember your goal!
Who are the members of a product development team?
Your project is more likely to succeed if you have the right people on the team. If you’re a startup, it’s possible that each team member may take on more than one role. This is okay, as long as the workload is manageable.
This is important to take into account if you’re looking to avoid a toxic work culture. Here’s a list of people that you need on your product development team:
1. Product manager
The product manager oversees everything in relation to the product’s life cycle. They create the product vision and strategy, spearhead market research initiatives, and take the lead in brainstorming sessions. He or she also ensures that the team is working towards a unified vision.
2. Project manager
The project manager’s main role is to make sure that the project is moving according to plan. Project managers usually keep track of everyone’s progress, as well as the project’s goals and budget. He or she also delegates tasks, makes sure the team plans retrospectives if applicable, and helps prevent any gaps in communication from happening.
The designer works mostly during the prototyping phase of product development. Also, when design improvements are made throughout the project. He or she has a crucial role in designing the product to follow the company’s branding as well as UX & UI best practices. This means putting emphasis on the customers’ needs.
Developers deal with using research and concepts to bring the product to life. They help provide insights on the technical aspect of the product, such as what’s feasible to do and what’s not. You can have one or more developers in your team – it all depends on what the project calls for.
Testers are a big part of a product’s quality assurance (QA). They analyze the product and note down changes that can be done to improve one’s overall user experience. They also make sure that each aspect of the product is working the way it’s supposed to.
Once you have your final product, it’s important to give it as much market exposure as possible. That’s where marketers come in. They help define your target audience and do research on the current landscape as well as your competitors.
They do this so that they can form a marketing campaign strategy for your product – one that can increase brand awareness and patronage. These are just some of the key personnel that you need on your product development team.
Depending on what the project calls for, the number of team members you have will vary. But one thing is certain, product development involves cross-departmental collaboration with different business functions coming together to build a new solution.
Effective project development tools
Now that you know what product development is, you’re ready to start creating your new product. Don’t forget to use the best tools for the project! If you want an easy way to manage the process, try out Rock - a holistic task management and communication tool.
Rock is the preferred tool of choice because it has everything you need. You get to send messages, create tasks, and monitor the progress of the project in one platform.
It also connects to different apps and third-party software providers that are useful in product development. This includes Google Drive, Dropbox, Miro and more. It streamlines the process of accessing files, lessens movement from one app to another, and makes collaboration easier.
Switching between synchronous and asynchronous work isn’t a problem on Rock either. Each Space has full-fledged task management functionality, which you work on with list, a board, or a calendar view.
The Tasks mini-app is packed with functionality – labels, descriptions, assignees, sprints, and start and due dates, to name a few. If you’re a Project Manager who wants to oversee movements on the project, there’s an option to follow tasks.
This gives you a great overview even if you may not be directly working on the task at hand. You can apply any kind of project management framework with flexible functionality across the board.
Rock also provides unlimited space for your files and conversations, so you don’t have to worry about losing important correspondence. You can even invite collaborators from outside your organization, absolutely for free!
You’re all set for your product development project!
Now that you know what product development is, why it’s important to have a product development plan, the different stages it involves, and who you’ll be needing on your team, you can certainly start creating your product.
By having a good product development plan, you can better grasp your team’s overall vision, as well as the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Remember to stay focused on these goals as you work on your product.
Hopefully, your journey will solve the pain point you’ve pinpointed while also bringing something unique to today’s market.