For any product company, it’s obvious that the product(s) it develops is the most valuable asset, be it a new product or a longstanding flagship offering. No surprise then that it’s vital to invest in strategic product development and build streamlined processes and a roadmap to ensure that this valuable asset stays competitive. A systematic and well-planned approach works best whether you want to develop and launch a completely new product or enhance an existing one.
Product development is almost like a science in itself and it’s quite impossible to capture everything in a few words. But we have tried to highlight some of the most essential best practices for product development from ideation to launch and the various stages involved in the process:
The first and a very crucial step, ideation is where a new product or a new feature takes birth before it develops into a full-blown offering. However, it is important for product development teams, especially entrepreneurs, to not get stuck at trying to find the perfect product idea that will catapult them into success. Think of how a potter works with a lump of clay and gradually shapes into something beautiful without waiting for a genius stroke. In our experience, the SCAMPER model is a great way to generate product ideas by asking the right questions and identifying the need for a product. Here’s a quick look at how SCAMPER helps with the ideation process:
- Put to another use
While ideating for product development, remember that good research is essential. You need to know what end-user problems have limited or no available solutions leaving a gap you could fill in with product development. For this, you could arrange a research study of your user base as well as an internal brainstorming session. You will be amazed at how many useful suggestions and ideas can result from an internal brainstorming session for product development.
As we just discussed, research is critical to test and validate an idea for product development before you actually get into production or even prototyping. There are many research methods you can use to check if your product is even viable and has demand, such as:
- An online survey for feedback
- The crowd-funding campaign which will generate awareness and get buy-in
- Testing user feedback in technology forums and checking user demand on platforms like Google Trends
- Using your existing digital channels to create interest and initial campaigns
Whatever research method you pick, what you need to gather is substantial and unbiased feedback about the feasibility and value of your product before you launch into product development. It will also be great to conduct a competitive analysis to see how your product will fare in the market against competing products.
Product development has a lot of variables and complexities involved so a well-design product development roadmap is essential. If you invest enough time in planning before you start production then you won’t have to spend time correcting mistakes. Your product development roadmap must clearly outline your objective, product specifications, sourcing requirements, pricing, marketing strategy, green production etc.
Making a prototype both tests and ensure that the entire product development team understands the requirements and expectations. Select several features that are most in-demand among your user base and in your product domain, and make these features the core of your prototype. A successful prototype is critical before you actually begin large-scale production because it helps weed out bugs, errors and inefficiencies. Imagine the financial and reputation impact of launching a glitchy product if you fail to prototype.
This brings us to product testing and why it’s such a critical step. When you’re testing your product or prototype, the obvious thing to check for is that the product does what it’s meant to, and does it efficiently. In addition to this, the product development team must test the product with actual users and check for errors, lags, performance issues, refining or adding UI/UX elements, and so on. Create user scenarios that will help you see what features could drive people to buy your product. Along with performance, the user-friendliness and visual appeal of your product are also important to get buyers to stay invested in your product. With hard work and due diligence, you will create a final product that your organization can be proud of. Focus on delivering quality is key, so build your product development process similar to Microsoft’s Software Development Lifecycle guidelines.
Any product development strategy worth its salt does not just stop after the launch of a product. All leading organizations spend a lot of time and resources in continuously enhancing the product after the initial launch, to improve its functionality, enhance the user experience, offer more features, including a wider and more diverse user base, or even to cover new demands and expectations from customers. As you continue to tailor your product, it will become more competitive and will have a larger customer set.