How to Build a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Strategy

How to Build a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Strategy

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a strategic, scalable approach that helps companies orchestrate every stage of a product’s development, from ideation to design, production, marketing, and long-term support. PLM software tools provide a comprehensive solution for managing the data, processes, and workflows necessary to drive efficiency and accuracy across the entire product lifecycle.

An effective PLM strategy optimizes all aspects of product development, reduces costs, improves product quality, accelerates time-to-market, and enhances customer satisfaction by providing a single source of truth for all product-related data and processes. Finally, PLM centralizes and democratizes access to resources, enabling more effective collaboration between every team involved in the product development process.

What is Product Lifecycle Management?

From ideation to launch, marketing, and providing ongoing support, PLM provides broad and detailed insights into all aspects of a product’s lifecycle. It involves collaboration among multiple orgs within a company, including project managers, designers, engineers, marketers, and sales teams. Without a comprehensive PLM strategy in place, businesses often struggle to stay relevant against competitors or enter untapped markets.

Productboard’s double diamond framework helps businesses discover, define, develop, and deliver products that meet customer needs and serve mission-critical business goals.

problem solution double diamond diagram

The first diamond represents the “Discover” phase, where the focus is on understanding customer needs, pain points, and opportunities. During this phase, teams can conduct market research, user interviews, and surveys to gain insights into specific solutions and features, collect competitive intel, and validate assumptions.

The second diamond represents the “Deliver” phase, where the focus is on creating solutions that meet the needs of customers and align with the business goals. This phase involves activities such as ideation, prototyping, testing, and launching the product, platform, or feature.

The double diamond approach highlights the importance of divergent and convergent thinking in each phase of the product development process. During the “Discover” phase, teams should generate a broad range of ideas and insights, while in the “Deliver” phase, product operations teams should use those insights to zero in on the most promising solutions. It’s an approach that gives businesses confidence that the products they build will solve real customer problems and deliver tangible business value without wasting resources.

Benefits of Product Lifecycle Management

Companies that choose PLM solutions reap several benefits, including higher-quality designs, improved engagement and conversions in marketing campaigns, a reduction in pre-launch errors, and an increased return on investment. PLM software can also decrease time-to-market, streamline processes, and provide continuous visibility to all stakeholders, reducing silos to pave the way for stronger collaboration.

There can be adoption challenges when it comes to introducing a new PLM strategy; everything from cultural resistance to complex process changes and training, system integration issues, and data management concerns. And while executive sponsorship and an actionable implementation plan are important, this is where PLM software plays a valuable role.

Product lifecycle management software like Productboard provides businesses with a centralized location for managing all product-related data, ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goals. PLM software also improves efficiency with automation, simultaneously improving accuracy and saving time. Finally, PLM software allows businesses to track and manage product quality throughout development and delivery, ensuring regulatory compliance and alignment with consumer needs—ultimately reducing costs and improving ROI. 

The Phases of Product Lifecycle Management 

Every product goes through approximately five stages: ideation/conceptualization, design/development, production/manufacturing, marketing/distribution, and support/maintenance

Successful products might spend a long time in the profit-making phase, but every product may eventually face a plateau or reduction in demand. PLM software allows organizations to remain agile and adapt to each phase of a product’s lifecycle, while performing continuous discovery. Continuous product discovery is the ongoing process of understanding customer needs, identifying opportunities, and refining product features to ensure that a deliverable meets the market where it’s at, and aligns with overarching business goals. 

Product management teams that build evolving insights and data into the discovery process reduce the risk of investing resources in products that won’t succeed. It also helps to identify new opportunities for innovation and improve the quality of different offerings over time. Additionally, involving insights and data into the discovery process promotes a culture of experimentation and collaboration. 

This allows product teams to set clear goals, metrics, and processes for gathering feedback, test and refine features over time, validate assumptions, and soft launch ideas before they’ve used up significant resources. By gathering feedback from customers early and often, teams can make informed decisions about which features and functionality to prioritize, which to deprioritize, and which to abandon altogether. 

After identifying which stage your product is in and tracking its market impact and ROI over time, you’ll be able to create actionable strategies to facilitate continuous discovery, and support various products as they move between different stages.

Phase 1: Ideation and Conceptualization

During this stage, the focus is on identifying and assessing opportunities in the market, analyzing customer needs and preferences, and using those findings to come up with new product ideas that have the potential to be successful. Teams will perform market research and analyze data to identify customer needs, preferences, and trends. 

After identifying potential opportunities in the market and generating product ideas, it’s necessary to evaluate what you’ve come up with and ensure it’s meeting all of your requirements when it comes to market size and target, competitive landscape, viability, and benefits. Before moving on to product development, it’s also useful to test concepts and assess consumer interest and feedback.

Phase 2: Design and Development 

Design and development are vital to the success of a product. After creating detailed design or taxonomy of the product, teams can move on to prototyping and testing it to ensure that all functional and performance requirements are met. 

Phase 3: Manufacturing and Production

This phase revolves around production planning and pricing. That includes sourcing materials and components; manufacturing, coding, developing, or engineering the product or feature; quality control or bug and sandbox testing; delivery, download, and implementation logistics; and finally, pricing structure. This is where the overall production schedule, resources, and budget are determined, and where the automation of a PLM platform can drive significant efficiency and cost reduction. 

Phase 4: Distribution and Marketing 

At this point in the process, businesses develop promotional materials and marketing campaigns, sales enablement processes and assets, and customer success models to scale adoption, and speed up onboarding and time-to-value. This phase also includes monitoring the progress of the product and feedback it receives, while providing customer support or technical assistance.

Phase 5: Service and Support

As a product or service reaches maturity, uptake and demand will slow down. It’s necessary for businesses to determine the ROI of continuing to invest resources in maintaining services and support—or production and manufacturing—for an asset that’s becoming obsolete or declining in profitability. How this stage unfolds, and how long it takes to reach it, will vary from business to product to feature. Ultimately, the latest stage of a product’s lifecycle will be largely determined by evolving consumer demand, technology, and cost. 

Examples of Product Lifecycle Management

Real-life examples of PLM exist in every industry. It’s proven essential to many of the markets that serve hugely diverse audiences at scale, such as education technology, global healthcare, and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

In education, new technologies can better support teaching and learning—particularly for online courses, assignments, and study materials. The PLM process in education is familiar: generating course ideas; designing and developing curriculum; testing, launching, and providing ongoing support or technical services. But the final deliverables have to meet the evolving needs of multiple end-stakeholders, from county board members to textbook publishers, teachers, students, and government. 

The added complexity of a tiered target audience and a wide variety of deliverables makes PLM all but required in edtech. The main benefits include access to a centralized data hub and automation, both which can help streamline course development, manage content creation and reuse, encourage collaboration, and over time, provide analytics on student engagement and performance.

Product lifecycle management has a growing impact in healthcare, defining how medical devices, equipment, and other healthcare products are created and made available to the people that need them. PLM guarantees that all safety, quality, and efficacy checks are met, directly impacting patient experiences and outcomes.

PLM is also critical for software providers, which must frequently refine offerings to meet the fluid needs of their customers, or update operating systems and security patches. The PLM process ensures that all stages of product development are documented, auditable, and up to industry standards, so businesses can consistently meet regulatory and compliance requirements.

From concept to retirement, PLM provides a systematic, sustainable, and scalable architecture for any merchant to accelerate innovation and outpace competitors while consistently aligning with consumer demand.

Why do companies need PLM?

PLM offers several benefits to companies, including improved product development through cross-functional collaboration, cost savings through streamlined processes and reduced time-to-market, increased efficiency with automation, and better product quality through testing and validation. By meeting customer needs and expectations, a well-managed product lifecycle can also increase customer satisfaction and lifetime value (LTV), sales and expansion, and long-term revenue.

How can Productboard help you with Product Lifecycle Management?

By providing a centralized platform to manage the complete product lifecycle, Productboard streamlines key processes, facilitates faster and clearer collaboration, and helps businesses across industries make smarter, data-driven decisions. As a hub for idea and feedback management, data analysis, feature prioritization, and product planning, it helps both product owners and product managers strategically visualize outcomes from conception to delivery, and easily figure out where blockers and opportunities are hiding.

With Productboard, companies can create product roadmaps that users love and that are built around accurate behavioral data and feedback. By blending qualitative and quantitative data to align your organization around clear, comprehensive roadmaps, businesses can plan releases with confidence in ROI, predict longevity, and take advantage of new outcomes. They can also track real-time progress and adjust plans as needed, in order to more consistently achieve goals, streamline processes, improve collaboration, and make data-driven decisions about all areas of product development.

 Leading businesses know that simplifying the product lifecycle management process accelerates growth and gets products to market faster. Start a free trial today to discover how you can improve product learning and ROI, build actionable product roadmaps that scale, streamline engineering workflows, and make smarter strategic decisions with Productboard.

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