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Product Development Process

In the tech world, change is the only constant. The success of your company depends on how fast you adapt to the needs of the marketplace and the growing competitive landscape. Your organization needs to continually innovate to keep up with customer expectations and stay relevant. This means delivering new and improved products much faster. A streamlined product development process that facilitates short development cycles will help your company stay ahead of the curve and satisfy customer needs with great new products and features.

What is the product development process?

The product development process is the entire process for taking a new product from an idea to market. The steps in product development include identifying new demands and opportunities in the marketplace, conceptualizing a solution, outlining the long-term product plan, building а Minimum Viable Product, creating the design, developing the product, and mapping the marketing strategy.

Frameworks for the product development process

There are several different models or frameworks you can adopt in your organization to effectively and efficiently build new products. Some of the popular models include the new product development (NPD) process, the IDEO process, the Scorecard-Markov model, the Booz, Allen, and Hamilton (BAH) model, and others. Over the last few years, the Lean Startup movement has also impacted how companies develop tech products in times of uncertainty.

Below we’ll delve into some of these models.

The IDEO approach

This framework has been adopted by IDEO, one of the most creative and award-winning design and consulting firms in the world. Their approach is focused on the user.  IDEO believes that the key to understanding what people really want lies in observing user behavior and putting yourself in the shoes of the end-user

The process is broken down into the following steps:

  1. Observe – Observe and understand the market, their needs, the problem, and the limitations of the technology
  2. Ideate Capture, synthesize, and filter customer feedback and insights gathered at the first step.
  3. Visualize Visualize customers using the new product.
  4. Prototype Prototype a product concept quickly.
  5. Gather feedback Collect feedback from your target audience.
  6. Implement – Refine and implement product changes based on the insights from the previous steps.

New product development (NPD) process

This is the typical approach used by companies building physical products, usually in retail and eCommerce. The process is not standardized, and it differs by organizational structure, industry, and maturity, but the most common steps include:

  1. Ideation — Come up with new product ideas or iterations of existing products. Gather your whole team and brainstorm potential ideas.
  2. Research — Once you have an idea for a product, you must validate it with your target audience. Talk to potential customers, collect customer insights through surveys, support tickets, mass trends, and reports.
  3. Planning — It’s important that you plan the product long-term before you build a prototype. Conceptualize the design of the product, start conversations with manufacturers and suppliers, consider the pricing, and so on.
  4. Prototyping — Create a working finished prototype that potential customers can use.
  5. Sourcing — Secure the key strategic partners, vendors, and suppliers required for producing the product.
  6. Costing — Once your product is in production and you have real-life data, you can estimate future costs and optimize processes and materials to reduce them.

The Booz, Allen, and Hamilton (BAH) model

The BAH model is one of the early adopted models for new product development that companies still use today.  Most of the other frameworks have been based on the foundations laid out by BAH since it was first published in 1982.

The model is broken down into seven steps:

  1. New product strategy – Define and understand how the product aligns with overarching company objectives.
  2. Idea generation – Brainstorm ideas for the formulation of the product.
  3. Screening and evaluation – The goal of this phase is to filter the best ideas and continue with their assessment.
  4. Business analysis – Gather quantitative evaluation of the idea. For instance, Return on Invest, Costs, and other predictions.
  5. Development – The idea is turned into a working product. 
  6. Testing – Consists of experiments in a commercial environment that aim to test the viability of the product.
  7. Commercialization – The public launch of the product.

Best practices for new product development

Regardless of whether you’re mapping out a new product development process or want to improve on your current process, there are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Start the process with your customers. Observe how potential customers are using the existing solutions and their biggest pains and frustrations.
  • Don’t innovate in a vacuum. Gather qualitative and quantitative customer feedback. Capture insights from your organization or external sources like Google Trends, and industry reports. 
  • Choose a model for your product development process and ensure that everyone across your organization is on the same page and understands the stages of the process.
  • Integrate the process as a part of your organization, not a siloed entity. 
  • Gather at least one representative from each company department and brainstorm new product ideas together.
  • Involve your stakeholders and early adopters as soon in the process as possible. 
  • Evaluate the risks involved with building the new product — market risks, usability risks, technology risks, business viability risks, and others.
  • Validate your product idea early in the process. Use an MVP or a prototype to test your assumptions about the market and its needs.
  • Define the metrics and KPIs that the product will be evaluated on.
  • Set short-term and long-term timelines for building and launching the product.

Examples of successful product development processes

Pebble

Smartwatch company Pebble (now acquired by Fitbit) demonstrated that there’s a massive opportunity in the market of wearable technology by raising over $10 million on Kickstarter. It was the most funded project in the history of the crowdfunding platform.

Once Pebble has reached its goal for pre-orders, the company worked with a consulting firm to identify suppliers and manufacturers. Less than a year later, Pebble shipped an initial production of 15,000 watches per week.

Foursquare

Before Foursquare became a fully-fledged city guide, the co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai built an MVP with a single feature. The first version of the app allowed you to check-in to different locations and awarded badges to gamify the user experience. The MVP was only available in 20 U.S. cities and Amsterdam. Only after the initial success of this version did they develop the fully-featured social network app.

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