Product Development Process
The product development process represents all the tasks and steps that a company takes in order to build a product from start to finish.
It’s important for your product development to be carried out systematically. This ensures that you’ve completely explored your product idea in terms of feasibility and market research and that you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to designing and testing the actual product.
In this article, we discuss the product development process, the steps it comprises, and how following a structured development process helps you build successful market-ready products.
Table of contents
- What Is The Product Development Process?
- How Do You Implement The Product Development Process?
- Advantages of Having a Product Development Process
- Examples of Product Development Processes At Work
- Product Development Process: Aligning Your Products With Business Goals and Market Needs
What Is The Product Development Process?
The product development process is the series of stages that a business goes through when building a product. It starts from the moment you start thinking of ideas for your product and continues throughout the product’s life cycle after being released on the market, as it continues to undergo changes based on market research and improvement insights.
How Do You Implement The Product Development Process?
The product development process is also known as the new product development process (NPD). An NPD consists of a variable number of stages, and these stages may change depending on whether you’re delivering a service, creating software, or designing a physical device.
To simplify things, we’ve identified the most commonly used steps that apply to most types of products. Here, we describe the 7 stages of the new product development process.
1. Ideation (Diverging)
The very first stage is ideation. Here, you develop new ideas for products or for improvements which you can make to existing products.
You and your team will generate these ideas based on your own research and development (R&D) findings, as well as the needs of your market. You’ll also be looking at your competitors’ products to come up with ways that you could tweak your product to respond to competitor features (or outperform them).
You may produce dozens or even hundreds of ideas during divergent phase ideation, but only a few will actually make it to a shortlist of workable concepts during the convergent phase. You don’t have to generate fully-formed ideas that are ready for the market at this stage. Refining your ideas comes later in the new product development process.
2. Idea Screening (Converging)
Once you have your list of ideas, you need to determine which ones align most closely with your business objectives and which of them are the most viable for success in your chosen market.
The objective of idea screening is to reduce a large number of generated ideas in the ideation phase. This convergence involves analyzing, comparing, and evaluating ideas to find the strongest fit for achieving your objectives. Ask questions like:
- Is there demand for this product?
- Does it have a strong USP?
- Can it be realistically achieved with the resources available?
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few ideas, then you can screen each more thoroughly by looking at audience research, rough development budgets, and competitor analyses. Eventually, you’ll find a single unique idea that will form the basis of the subsequent phases of your product development process.
3. Concept Development and Testing
After you’ve chosen an idea, the next step is to refine it further. In the concept testing stage, you test the idea on the basis of several feasibility factors, including:
- Product marketability
- Time constraints
A large part of this includes determining whether the product will actually address a market need. You can conduct focus group testing with people within your market to see if your idea hits it off with them.
If your idea fails the concept testing stage, you can return to your shortlist of ideas, or start the ideation phase over again until you find one that works.
4. Strategic Business Analysis
Once you’ve tested and refined your product idea, you need to identify the strategies that will make it successful. In this stage, you’ll develop your marketing strategy for the product and review the estimated costs and potential profits that it can produce.
5. Product Development
After ideation, research, and testing, it’s time for the actual product development phase to begin. Here, you’ll implement your product strategy and engage your product team to bring your idea to life.
During this phase, you’ll be developing multiple versions of your product. This may include a prototype for testing in the market or demonstrating to investors, as well as the minimum viable product (MVP) that represents what you’ll be able to launch as a v1 initially.
6. Testing and Validation
With your MVP complete, it’s time to see how it fares on the open market. In the testing stage of the product development process, you will expose your product to actual customers. There are various means of doing this, including:
- Soft launch
- Beta testing
- Small-scale product launch
Throughout this phase, you’ll also be conducting product validation. This is where you determine whether your product actually addresses the market needs that you outlined in earlier phases. Based on the results of your testing and customer feedback, you may need to make further adjustments to your product.
Finally, you reach the commercialization stage once you’ve completed testing and made all the necessary changes based on your findings.
At this point, you’ll be planning your go-to-market strategy. You’ll be answering questions such as:
- When do you plan to launch your product?
- Will you launch in all of your target markets simultaneously or start small?
- How will you roll out your marketing strategy?
After your product launch, the product development process may undergo several iterations and ideations to improve the product further. Ensuring that your product adapts to changing market needs means it can remain relevant to your customers for years to come, and you can avoid losing market share to innovative competitors.
Advantages of Having a Product Development Process
Having a structured product development process can help improve your products’ performance and make the development process more efficient. Here’s how you reap these advantages.
Product development is extremely costly, and a seemingly feasible idea may turn out to be a very expensive waste of R&D resources if it ends up being a dud. The product development process helps you test and filter out ideas in a structured way so that you don’t spend unnecessary time and money on an idea that won’t pan out in the end.
Better Understanding Of Customer Needs
By engaging every product idea in a pattern of market research, testing, and validation, you develop a better understanding of what your customers really need. This helps you build a better product that addresses their pain points, and therefore has better chances of success in the open market.
Improved Scope Management
Product ideas that are developed haphazardly can end up ballooning with technical debt and feature creep. Having a product development process helps temper your scope and keep your team on track with your business goals.
Because you have set goals at every phase of product development, you’ll be able to launch your product more quickly and efficiently.
Examples of Product Development Processes At Work
Product development processes have helped create some of the best-known products in the world. Here are just a few successful startups that used the product development process to refine highly saleable, addictive products.
Few people might remember that streaming giant Netflix began its life as a mail-orders DVD rental service. Their constant push for friction-free content delivery has led them to abandon their old physical media format and become the best-known online video streaming service to date.
By gearing their product development process towards improving how their customers got access to the best video content, they were able to create a highly valuable service that has constantly adjusted to consumer needs. They’ve even made huge strides as a production studio, delivering high-quality original content to their customers as part of their service offering.
Apple is one of the most famous product developers in the world, and they have the product development process down to an art. They ensure that their product’s design and functionality aspects are closely related, and every idea they generate always focuses on their premium positioning.
As a result, every Apple product is closely associated with a brand of quality and reliability. For evidence of their success, look no further than the fiercely loyal Apple enthusiast crowd who are always willing to pay top dollar for their products.
Google’s product development process is very much one that is driven by technological advancement. Every product they produce is designed to innovate on existing products in some way.
For instance, Google’s main search engine product rose to the top of the charts by providing more relevant results than any other search engine. Meanwhile, Android, their mobile operating system, challenged proprietary competition with open-source software that any manufacturer could license, and today is the most popular mobile OS in the world.
Product Development Process: Aligning Your Products With Business Goals and Market Needs
The product development process exists to rein in the chaos of brainstorming, scoping, and strategizing that surrounds the genesis of any product. By sticking to this structured process, you ensure that you make the best product with the most efficient use of your time and resources.