The Best Product Development Process

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Last updated on
12nd Apr, 2021
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30th Mar, 2021
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The Best Product Development Process

What Is Product Development? 

Product development relates to the creation of a new product that has some benefit; up-gradation of the existing product; or improvement of the production process, method, or system. In other words, it is all about bringing a change for the better in the present goods or services or the mode of production.  

Product development includes the following elements:

Product Development

Creation and Innovation pave the process for new discoveries and the creation of a new product that offers benefits to the consumers. Amendment of the existing products is essential to enhance the past products and to attain perfection. Improvement of the existing production process, methods, and practices helps give customers an improved experience. It is cost-efficient for the organization too. 

For Example; Apple CEO Steve Jobs envisioned an idea of using a touch screen to interact with a computerwhich would allow him to directly type onto the display, instead of using a stylus. This idea of a touch screen was first implemented for the first iPhone that was launched in 2007 in the US. Apple, with its new product development, revolutionized the way we use mobile gadgets.

Why Is It So Important to have a Product Development Process? 

Product development is the procedure for the successful development of new products or adding new features to the current product. In business terms, the product development policy provides a skeleton that aids enhancement of the performance and quality of products.  

The approaches outlined below can bring up scores of advantages to help and expand the business in today’s contentious market. 

  • Control over product

The development of a product without a decent approach is quite a precarious challenge. To manage and to be sure of success, it is necessary to plan the development of your products or services and this is what the business or organization requires. The planning would help in fulfilling business goals. 

  • Enhanced performance

Several times, even after spending thousands of dollars on promotion or marketing the product, a business owner faces setbacks because of poor quality of the product. Hence, it is important to monitor the production and other processes to preserve a record of wrongdoings and improve the same. 

  • Reduce cost

Creating and implementing new products leads to additional cost to the company. The owner has to bear a huge cost in the primary stages of product development, but after the execution process, it is noticed that there is a decrease in product development cost.

Reduce cost

The History of Product Development Processes 

Product improvement is closely tied to creativity, invention, and insight—and follows the vision of an idea. For example: the present-day Gas stove is the consequence of some ancient human's insight that a fire is created by rubbing two stones together: the rest was product development. 

According to Michael McGrath (in Next Generation Product Development), keen focus on the development process began late in the 19th century. McGrath divides the time since into "generations" of product development importance. First ending in 1950s, the focus was on commercialization of discoveries; in the second, formalization of product development as a process began, and this lasted until the 1980s. In the third "generation" of product development, corporate management concentrated on getting products to market faster. In the 21st century, according to McGrath, stress had shifted to R&D-based development. All types of strategies to product development proceed to exist side-by-side. As in gambling, no "method" ensures success.

Product Development Process Models 

There are different software development life cycle models defined which are helpful in designing the software development process.  

Some important and popular SDLC models supported in the industry are as follows: 

  1. Waterfall Process Model 
  2. Iterative Process Model 
  3. Spiral Process Model 
  4. V Process Model 
  5. Big Bang Process Model 
  6. Agile Process Model 
  7. RAD Process Model 
  8. Prototyping Process Models 

Waterfall Model

The Waterfall Model is the traditional Process Model. It is considered as a linear-sequential life cycle model. Waterfall model at each stage must accomplish the next phase before and there should be no overlapping phases.

Iterative Process Model  

Iterative process starts with an easy implementation of a subset of the software requirements and iteratively improves the evolving versions until the full system is implemented.  With every  new iteration, new design modifications are produced and new functional capabilities are added.  

Spiral Process Model 

The spiral model has four phases. A software project repeatedly passes through these phases in iterations called Spirals i.e. Identification, Design, Construct or Build and Evaluation and Risk Analysis. 

V Process Model 

The V-model is an SDLC model where execution of processes occurs in a sequential manner in a V-shape. It is also acknowledged as Verification and Validation model. The V-Model is an extension of the waterfall model. 

Big Bang Process Model 

The Big Bang model is an SDLC model where we do not follow any definite process. The development begins with the required money and efforts as the input, and the output is the software developed which may or may not be as per customer demand. 

Agile Process Model 

Agile product development life cycle promotes frequent inspection and adaptation. The methodologies rely on the experience of small teams and teamwork to address any changes and promote trusted customer collaboration. Agile product development methodbegin things in small increments. Iterations are small; typically of one to four weeks duration. 

RAD Process Model 

The RAD (Rapid Application Development) model is based on prototyping and iterative development with no special planning involved. The method of drafting the software itself involves the planning required for producing the product. 

Software Prototype Process Model 

The Software Prototyping refers to building software application prototypes which illustrate the functionality of the product under development, but may not truly hold the precise logic of the original software.

What Is the Product Development Lifecycle? 

The product life cycle is an influential concept in marketing. It defines the stages a product goes through right from its inception to when it is removed from the market. Not all products relinquish the final stage. Some advance and grow while others rise and fail. 

The main stages of the product life cycle are: 

  1. Research & development - Researching and developing the product before it is made available for sale in the market 
  2. Introduction – Driving the product into the market 
  3. Growth – When sales are expanding at their fastest rate 
  4. Maturity – Sales are near their highest, but the percentage of growth is slowing down, e.g. new rivals in market or saturation 
  5. Decline – Final step of the cycle, when sales begin to fall

Product life cycle-Overview

This can be illustrated by looking at the sales during the time span of the product.

What is a New Product Development Process? 

The product development method is a well-defined series of steps or stages a company uses to achieve its accomplishment of new offerings. Every company develops new product or services, but product development processes vary considerably from one company to another depending on the industry, the product type, whether the product is an incremental improvement or a breakthrough innovation, and the extent to which you focus on product portfolio management. 

What are the six steps of a traditional new product development process? 

A typical product development process of this kind has six steps with five gates. 

  • Step 1: Product Discovery  
  • Step 2: Definition of Product 
  • Step 3: Product Business Case Development  
  • Step 4: Detailed Product Design  
  • Step 5 Validation/Testing of product developed 
  • Step 6: Product Launch 

Step 1: Product Discovery 

This initial step or stage of the new product development process is where new product ideas originate. A company forms a small team to study the idea and initial draft of the product, perform market analysis, and explore technical and market risk. The concept is the most important step for new products as this is where the most product ideas come from - and this determines the necessity for the development. If the study or product concept is wrong at the early stage, then not only is time wasted but it also increases opportunity cost.    

Step 2: Definition of Product 

This stage encompasses polishing the definition of the product. The team creates the first comprehensive evaluation of the technology, and the market and business features of the new product concept. Developers and managers review and illustrate the important points of differentiation for the new product. If this process is carried out incorrectlythen it can increase time to market or cause the product to misinterpret the needs of the market. 

Step 3: Product Business Case Development 

Action supports the organization’s investment in the development of a product by having the team create a comprehensive business plan. This plan comprises exhaustive market research. The team explores the new product and where the intended product fits within it, and also creates a monetary model for the innovative offering that makes presumptions about market share. 

Step 4: Detailed Product Design 

The team outlines and assembles a working prototype of the product. In most cases they alpha-test the archetype, working with customers in an iterative manner; receiving feedback, and incorporating it into the prototype. This step in the new product development process is sometimes called Development, and charters the next step, “Validation/Testing.” 

Step 5: Validation/Testing of product developed 

Validation and testing mean ensuring the prototype operates as predicted. It also means verifying the product in the opinions of the customers and markets and testing the viability of the financial model of the product. 

Step 6: Product launch 

During the product development process, the team realizes everything required to bring the product to market, including marketing and sales plans.   

Gate Reviews 

Each of these six phases finishes within a gate review where the team gives the management specific, pre-defined deliverables, and displays the outcomes required to move on to the next phase of the product development process.

The world is moving away from this waterfall product development approach.  It is extremely process heavy and encourages additional interference from Senior Management.

Product Development process steps

Image source

Minimum Viable Process: A Modern Approach 

What value does the planning of a new product development bring to customers? Irrespective of its form-i.e. physical or digital, it should be able to solve the customer’s problem. It doesn't matter how complex the problem would be, but it should deliver a high-quality product that brings value to your customers.  

In a nutshell, Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a variant of a software product that has enough functionalities to satisfy the primary needs of the first users and persuade investors to invest money into it. It is not a fully-grown product, but it can nonetheless bring business privileges and has the potential for additional development.  

In other words, an MVP is a working prototype that should: 

  1. Be fast to build 
  2. Contemplate all resources (money, developers, etc.) on providing customers with real value 
  3. Create those features that are important for a product to generate value 

The theory of an MVP was developed by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup. The author believes that the most important factor is to focus on business goals and not on the technology which has only secondary importance. Focus on investigating the market and understand the obstacles your potential customers want to solve.  

Any product before it is released to the public is a mere theory. Testing in a real-life scenario is important to collect market feedback and then iterate. Each idea, even the most profound one, brings no business value until it is put into practice. An MVP allows you to verify, without making an ample investment of time and money, if the product attracts new customers when launched.  

If your product is successful, continue to develop it so it becomes a foundation for a fully-grown product. When MVP needs improvements to be transformed into a product it should be completely reworked. MVP strategy allows you to considerably shorten your time-to-market. 

Minimum Viable Process: A Modern Approach

 A Modern, Lean Product Development Process 

Toyota began its journey with lean product development at Toyota Loom Works. Toyota started manufacturing cars. There were differences in manufacturing conditions between Japan and the USA. Toyota had few skilled engineers and had limited prior experience. Car companies in US employed well-educated work team and benefited from the research and skill-sets of their engineering teams. To tackle this shortfall in knowledge and experience, Toyota escorted an incremental approach to development that built on their current knowledge and this became the basis of the lean systems. 

Lean Product Development (LPD) is based on lean thinking and lean principles that originally were developed in lean manufacturing. Lean thinking relates to way of thinking and specific practices that maintain less of everything – less resources, less work-in-process, less time, and less cost – to manufacture a physical product, knowledge product or service product.  

The five Lean Thinking Principles are: 

  1. Define and maximize customer value 
  2. Identify the value stream and reduce waste 
  3. Make the value-creating steps flow 
  4. Empower the team 
  5. Learn and improve 

Approach: Creating products that delight customers and meet business objectives. 

Agile methodology versus Waterfall methodology 

The waterfall project methodology is a traditional pattern for developing engineering systems that were used in manufacturing and construction projects. When executed in software development, specific tasks completed in one phase need to be assessed and validated before moving to the next phase. It is called a linear and sequential approach, where phases flow downward to the next.  

The agile project methodology is an example of an incremental model for software development based on principles that focus more on people, decisions, and manageable responses to change. Planning of the whole project is broken down in small increments or short time spans. Each iteration involves the whole SDLC cycle so that a working product is delivered at the end. 

Some of the distinct differences are: 

  1. Agile is an incremental and iterative approach; Waterfall is a linear and sequential approach. 
  2. Agile distributes a project into sprints; Waterfall distributes project into phases. 
  3. Agile helps to finish many small projects; Waterfall helps to complete one single project. 
  4. Agile incorporates a product mindset with a focus on customer satisfaction; Waterfall introduces a project mindset with a focus on successful project delivery. 
  5. Requirements are planned everyday in Agile, while in Waterfall, requirements are adjusted once at the start. 
  6. Agile enables requirement changes at any time; Waterfall shuns scope changes once the project starts. 
  7. Testing is done concurrently with development in Agile; testing stage comes only after the build phase in Waterfall. 
  8. Testing teams in Agile can take part in specifications change; testing teams in Waterfall do not get involved in specification changes. 
  9. Agile empowers the entire team to manage the project without a project manager; Waterfall requires a project manager who performs an essential role in every phase. 

Waterfall V/S Agile

Cross-functional teams 

Cross-functional collaboration involves people from diverse spheres, bringing together their knowledge, expertise, and experience. The major point is “work-interdependency”. Teams have to work together to accomplish results. 

Cross-team collaboration has become the demand of continually emerging new technologies, with new competitors scrumming, and companies aspiring to stay on top of the game. The success of a cross-functional team depends on several factors, without which a team would be struggling. 

  1. Highly motivated team members 
  2. Teams hold responsibility to achieve the mission 
  3. Open-minded team members 
  4. Management to support the team 
  5. No opposing personal goals 
  6. Clear priorities or direction 
  7. Adequate communication 

Cross-functional collaboration can be a great team building measure and can build a more creative atmosphere. The 8 Benefits of Cross-Functional Team Collaboration are: 

  1. To bring a gulp of creative ideas 
  2. Engaged employees 
  3. Spurring innovative ideas 
  4. Exercising communication skills 
  5. Developing management skills 
  6. Chance to get in leadership roles 
  7. Break stereotype and benefit from diversity 
  8. Build better team spirit

Example: Product development—Agile methodology (Case Study) 

Below is the case study of a team that faced issues but managed to implement solutions to resolve the issues and delivered output with high standards 

Issues 

  1. Products or Services were not delivered on-time. Rework and burden caused employee stress and customer disappointment 
  2. Lack of clear and well-defined product development methods 
  3. Excessive projects in the pipeline; team was small, and resources were spread too thin 
  4. Projects were continuously reprioritized leading to incompetent resource utilization 
  5. Lack of clarity to project status 
  6. The absence and missing of key resources led to inefficient product development 
  7. Lack of strategic management 
  8. Poor communication and hand-offs between departments 

Solution implemented 

  1. Designed a portfolio management system that managed an appropriate and optimal number of projects based on available resources 
  2. Acquired a scalable and robust lean product development process with integrated lean/agile techniques 
  3. Implemented cross-functional teams with designated roles and responsibilities 
  4. Standardized project management processes and enhanced project clarity across the organization 
  5. Coached the product management team on maturing product strategies and roadmaps 
  6. Trained and mentored senior management and project team members 

What made the solution successful? 

  1. Active and strong senior management buy-in and support played an important role in implementing the solutions at high standards 
  2. Built organizational knowledge that can be used in other active projects 
  3. Projects were kept on hold until resources were available 
  4. Efficient project planning facilitated proper collaboration within cross-functional teams 
  5. Product development strategies and roadmaps helped the development team 
  6. Daily stand-up meetings organized helped cross-functional teams to monitor project work, front and center 
  7. Accommodated implementation timing based on the organization’s capability 

Effect or Consequence 

  1. Within a couple of months, important and high priority projects were completed on-time (some early); the client was hence satisfied 
  2. The client acquired a major contract from the customer due to improved on-time delivery and this, in turn, ensured more business 
  3. Enhanced communication and coordination across all departments 
  4. Senior management was competent to evaluate and prioritize the most important projects  
  5. Weekly Reports granted visibility to project status 
  6. Product development and lean/agile processes are now efficiently embedded into the organization 
  7. The internal conflicts between team members and departments have declined 

Conclusion

New product development is about transforming new and uninitiated ideas into workable products. This product will be your brainchild, which will provide a contentious advantage and help monopolize the market.

The eight stages of product development may seem like a lengthy process, but they are outlined to save time and resources. New product improvement plans and prototypes are experimented with to assure that the new product will meet target market demands and desires. Implement a test launch during the test or marketing stage as a full market launch would be expensive. Finally, the commercialization stage is meticulously planned to maximize product success. A poor launch will affect product sales and could even affect the reputation and vision of the new product.

Hence, A Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®) is one such certification that helps holders become successful product owners by training them on aspects of on-time delivery of high-value releases and maximizing the ROI.

Profile

Rajesh Bhagia

Blog Author

Rajesh Bhagia is experienced campaigner in Lamp technologies and has 10 years of experience in Project Management. He has worked in Multinational companies and has handled small to very complex projects single-handedly. He started his career as Junior Programmer and has evolved in different positions including Project Manager of Projects in E-commerce Portals. Currently, he is handling one of the largest project in E-commerce Domain in MNC company which deals in nearly 9.5 million SKU's.

In his role as Project Manager at MNC company, Rajesh fosters an environment of teamwork and ensures that strategy is clearly defined while overseeing performance and maintaining morale. His strong communication and client service skills enhance his process-driven management philosophy.

Rajesh is a certified Zend Professional and has developed a flair for implementing PMP Knowledge Areas in daily work schedules. He has well understood the importance of these process and considers that using the knowledge Areas efficiently and correctly can turn projects to success. He also writes articles/blogs on Technology and Management