How to Succeed in Product Development

Learn how to create products that people will love—from the initial product concept to release.

What is Product Development?

Product development is a process that aims to create a unique offering that meets the needs of a target market and can be profitable for the company. It involves designing, creating, and launching a new product or service and it typically requires research, market analysis, and a lot of trial and error. In many cases, product development is a team effort that brings together engineers, designers, marketers, and other experts. There can be a lot of time and effort involved in this process, but the result is hopefully a groundbreaking new product that consumers will love.

Teams Involved in the Product Development Process

Many people and teams are involved in product development, from ideation to launch. Here are some of the key players:

Product Management

Product managers are responsible for the product’s strategy and roadmap. They work with stakeholders to understand the goals for the product and then translate that into a plan that the development team can execute.

Engineering Team

The engineering team is responsible for designing, building, and testing the product. They turn the vision for the product into a reality and ensure that it meets all the necessary safety and quality standards.

Innovation Team

The innovation team is responsible for developing new solutions to business and customer problems. They build product ideas based on market analysis, which drives product strategy and helps the company avoid getting stuck.

Product Marketing Team

Product marketers create the product’s narrative. They develop positioning and messaging, competitive analysis, and build buyer personas. They plan marketing campaigns, promote awareness of their products, and encourage usage among customers.

Operations Team

The operations team oversees organizational performance and progress, aligning team budgets and processes. Project managers supervise resource allocation, risks, and bottlenecks while encouraging teamwork.

The 3 Steps in Creating a Product Development Plan

A product development plan is a journey from an idea to a marketable product. It should include as many stakeholders as possible to ensure that all of their specific needs, requirements, and concerns are considered (if not addressed).

Creating a product development plan is essential to ensure your product is successful. There are three main steps in the process:

1. Create a Product Vision

The product vision is the first step and helps everyone align around the shared objective. Afterward, a product mission describes its purpose, who it is for, and what benefits it will receive. Finally, some guiding principles are put in place to ensure success.

With a product vision and mission already set, the next step would be to establish primary goals for the product. These goals may not be as evident in the early stages, but they will eventually develop into measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Objective Key Results (OKRs). Measurable targets shape the features, enhancements, and capabilities needed to achieve these objectives.

2. Develop a Product Roadmap

Based on customer research and validation, the product team can start mapping out a plan, prioritizing which topics need to be addressed first. It’s then possible to set milestones and goals based on dates. However, it’s more important to focus on creating value than strictly adhering to a timeline.

3. Put the Roadmap Into Practice

After you have agreed upon a product roadmap, it is time to make a plan and implement it. Implementation teams can create schedules, break down big themes into sprints, and develop iterations of the product. It creates a feedback loop between the sales team, the customer, and the support department. They can identify new opportunities, point out problems, and suggest areas for improvement.

After collecting data and feedback, it’s time to update the product roadmap and prioritize the development backlog. This way, every development cycle has maximum impact.

How Do Product Roadmaps Fit Into Product Development?

Product roadmaps are a vital component of product development. They help prioritize, summarize, and capture your product’s key objectives and significant themes and align everyone around the same goal. Regularly reviewing and updating a product roadmap is crucial.

The product roadmap is the backbone of the product development process. It outlines the strategy and timeline for developing a product from start to finish. It should be created early in the process and often revisited to ensure the product is on track.

Stages of Product Development

Although the specifics of product development will differ depending on the company, there are some key stages that nearly all teams go through—from strategizing to assessing success. It’s common to finish one phase before starting another, but you may revisit and refine decisions and solutions multiple times throughout the process. The stages of product development are:

Stage 1: Strategize

It’s the stage where you define goals and initiatives, establish objectives and key results, and gather information about your audience and target market. Using product development templates, checklists, project plans, and other tools can help you organize your thoughts and establish a clear product development strategy.

Stage 2: Ideate

In this stage, the product team is responsible for examining and evaluating all of their customer, coworkers, and partner suggestions. The team brainstorms possible solutions and narrows them to the most promising ones. The focus should be on taking raw ideas and turning them into tailored solutions that benefit both the customer and the company.

Stage 3: Plan

This stage is where you build a product roadmap and establish product value. Product teams move into detailed roadmap planning under the direction of the product manager. It involves defining epic, major user stories, and features that fall under each project. Remember that your product roadmap differs from your release plan, which describes phases of work, release dates, and dependencies.

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Stage 4: Showcase

After the product team has finalized its roadmap, it’s time to present it to stakeholders. Ensure everyone understands the product’s vision, objectives, and goals. This phase gives product teams a chance to answer questions about where the product is going and gather feedback from stakeholders.

Stage 5: Build

Product teams work with development teams to start building the product. In this stage, it’s essential to focus on delivering new functionality that meets customer needs. It may involve multiple iterations and releases before the product is complete.

Stage 6: Launch

After all the hard work of strategizing, planning, and building, it’s time to launch your product. It’s when you make it available to customers and allow them to start using it. It’s essential to have a solid launch plan to ensure your product is successful. A launch checklist may help you organize your staff around the work that needs to get done.

Stage 7: Analyze

After launching your product, it’s time to analyze the results. It’s when you assess whether your product successfully achieved its objectives and goals. Did it meet customer needs? Was it profitable? Use data and feedback to answer these questions and determine whether your product was a success. Some product teams use customer feedback metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).

Common Early-Stage Product Development Frameworks

There are various methodologies for product organizations to begin with. Most strategies recommend that you first learn about customer needs, conduct market research, develop prototypes, and experiment with new ideas before putting all your efforts into product development. Here are some common early-stage product development frameworks:

Design Thinking

Design thinking is a method for bringing design and innovation together. It has cognitive, strategic, and functional phases for generating new ideas. Below are the steps behind design thinking.

  • Empathize – Know who the user is and what they want
  • Define – Frame the problem in ways that focus on users and people
  • Ideate – Collect comments and come up with ideas
  • Prototype – Make early versions of a product or service
  • Test – Find out what works and what problems there are

Front-End Innovation

The front end is the first half of a product’s development. The purpose of front-end innovation is to evaluate the concept of a product and whether or not to invest additional time and resources. Below are the standard components of front-end innovation.

  • Strategic planning – Set goals for the company and the products
  • Idea selection and analysis – Think about and understand the viability of a product
  • Product definition – Make a business case and list the needs

New Product Development (NPD)

The objective of NPD is to go from concept to commercial availability for a product. It may apply to new product development and improvement of an existing one.

  • Idea generation – Brainstorm ideas inside and get ideas from customers outside
  • Idea screening – Analysis and ranking of ideas
  • Concept testing – Turn an idea into a clear concept
  • Market strategy and business analysis – Figure out how much it will cost and how much it could make
  • Technical product design and development – Plan and build the product
  • Market testing – Run the product through beta testing or a trial run
  • Commercialization – Finish a thorough go-to-market launch and put the product on the market

What are Product Development Best Practices?

If you want to start or improve your product development process, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Involve customers early and often – Customer input is essential at every stage of product development. Use surveys, interviews, focus groups, and beta testing to get customer feedback.
  • Don’t innovate in a vacuum – Research your competition’s ideas and see what you can improve. Gather insights from your organization or external sources like industry reports.
  • Use Agile methodologyAgile is a popular product development methodology that helps teams move quickly and adapt to change. The system works by delivering features in short cycles, known as sprints, as part of the incremental development model.
  • Create and maintain a product backlog – A product backlog is a prioritized list of features or requirements that a team needs to build. It’s essential to keep the backlog updated as priorities change.
  • Use prototypes and experiments – Prototypes and experiments help teams validate ideas and get customer feedback.
  • Set the KPIs and metrics used to measure the product’s success
  • Establish deadlines for developing and releasing the product in the short and long terms

FAQs About Product Development

Product development is the process of designing, creating, and bringing a new product to market. Product management is the strategic process of managing a product’s life cycle, including planning, development, and marketing. These two collaborate to plan and build the product roadmap that’ll bring the product to market.

Agile product development is a process where you create a product using the Agile methodology. It involves breaking down the project into short cycles known as sprints. After each iteration, the team responsible for developing the product delivers a working prototype to customers to receive feedback and make changes if necessary.

Some advantages of product development include:

  • Quickly bringing new products to market
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved quality control
  • Reduced risk and costs
  • Improved communication and collaboration among team members

There are several characteristics of successful NPD projects, including:

  • An engaged product owner
  • Dependable team members
  • Clear goals and objectives
  • A product road map
  • Solid market research
  • Comprehensive testing
  • Focused approach
  • Clear timeline
  • Adaptable and flexible
Rob Paredes
Article by
Rob Paredes
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.