The 4 Steps of Effective Product Development

4 Steps to Effective Product DevelopmentProduct development is often seen as a very complex process, and rightly so. There are a lot of moving parts and many departments and stakeholders involved in the ideation, development and manufacturing of a product. Everyone from marketing and sales to accounting and legal has a contribution to make to ensure the new product is viable, and that the launch goes smoothly.

However, it doesn’t have to be as hard to develop a product as many program managers believe. In reality, the entire product development process can be defined in four steps. When you follow these steps, you’ll come out with a great idea that will help your organization increase sales and growth.

Step One of Product Development: Listening to Feedback 

Many program managers feel that the first step of product development is coming up with a good idea. That’s the second step, and a very important first step is often missed. It’s important to listen to feedback before you come up with your ideas.

Through feedback, your customers and clients will tell you what they like and don’t like about your current products and services, and what they feel can be improved. You can’t skip this important information and expect to have a consistently effective product development process.

You can gather feedback in a variety of ways. A crowdsourcing platform can be part of a specific program to develop a new product. You can also get feedback through surveys or by listening to customer concerns in the customer service department, or online on social media. Regardless of the way you obtain feedback, be sure it is the first step of your product development process.

Step Two of Product Development: Ideation

After you’ve received feedback from existing customers, it’s time to distil that feedback into new ideas.  There are several parts to the ideation stage and here are the steps we use:

  • Ideate. This involves getting ideas from crowdsourcing, brainstorming, and the feedback you’ve gathered. Then you evaluate and choose the best idea.
  • Assemble a Team. Once you choose an idea, choose a team to develop it. The team should have a variety of talents and not be prone to over-analysis or groupthink.
  • Refine the Idea. Using the team’s unique talents and the feedback from other departments, refine the idea until it makes the most sense for your customers and your organization.
  • Estimate Resources and Costs. As you move toward creating a prototype, you are now in a position to estimate the resources and costs that are going to be involved in production and distribution.
  • Review. Before you finalize the idea, conduct a final review and have all stakeholders sign off.
  • Funding. With the idea approved, secure funding from the company directly or from outside sources.

Step Three of Product Development: Prototyping

Before jumping full-scale into production and distribution, create a series of prototypes. A prototype has two major advantages. First, it lets you affirm that the estimated resources and costs are accurate for the exact model you are producing. Ensuring that the numbers are correct up front helps to avoid overspending on production.

Secondly, prototyping allows you to do a limited release to test not only the demand in the market, but also allows you to test the functionality and work out bugs early in the design. Finally, prototyping a limited release allows you to distribute different versions to smaller market segments to see which one is best received. In this way, prototyping serves as a low-cost testing ground that allows you to choose only the best and most in-demand version of your final product for distribution.

Step Four of Product Development: Manufacturing 

After all of the testing and prototyping is done, it’s time to manufacture and release the final product. If a limited release was not done in the prototyping phase, it might be done in the manufacturing phase. There are two reasons for a limited release;  to build up demand for the product, and to allow manufacturing to ramp up to meet the demand before the full release. This helps avoid embarrassing back orders that cost you time and money.

Once the full release is done, the job is not complete. The feedback cycle begins again, and you can use what the market tells you about your new product to either improve it or to develop your next offering. As you tweak the product, you’ll find yourself in the ideation, prototyping, and manufacturing phases again. The product development cycle doesn’t end.  It simply builds on itself as your company grows and improves over time.

To learn more about IdeaScale stages and how they can help you innovate and keep your creativity on the cutting edge, click here to read our complete guide.

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