Product development is among the most important processes within a business that affects its long-term sustainability. A company that brings innovative products to the market is likely to have a competitive advantage that boosts its growth. To develop new products, the foremost thing that a business needs to carry out is customer research. By performing a comprehensive customer analysis, a business can identify the new needs of the consumers. Depending on the collected information, the business has to either make modifications in an existing product/software or develop a new one to satisfy the need of customers.
While the process of product development may sound easy and plain sailing, the reality is quite the opposite. In fact, coming up with new/modified products that fulfill the demands of customers is a tough row to hoe because of the involvement of extensive R&D work. Moreover, to bring an innovative product, thinking out of the box becomes a compulsion.
Generally, there are two types of products, namely tangible and intangible products. The tangible products are touchable and are physical in nature, whereas intangible products are intellectual and do not have a physical presence. Software and digital media are typical examples of intangible products.
For businesses who want to develop inventive products/software, it is advisable to follow the steps shown in the flow diagram below:
Extraction of Product Ideas
Often, the best ideas for developing new products or making alterations to prevailing products originate from the employees that are in regular touch with customers. In addition, conducting surveys for assessing the changing needs of customers and collecting feedback from them for the existing software/products can also generate a lot of product ideas.
There are even more ways to gather unique product ideas such as competitor analysis, investigating suppliers, and collection of information through newspapers, magazines, journals, government publications, etc.
Evaluation of Assembled Product Ideas
It is quite obvious that working on all the project ideas simultaneously is next to impossible. Thus, the next task that the product development team needs to carry out is to examine the feasibility of the ideas. Moreover, a rough estimation of the resources needed for the development of each product idea is also assessed within this step.
The central purpose of evaluating the product ideas gathered using collective brainstorming and customer surveys is to screen them. The product ideas that are not feasible needs to be eliminated and the focus is predominantly on recognizing the most practical designs. It is quite important to note that active participation of upper management is vital for screening project ideas. As working on a new project idea requires a considerable amount of resources and can have a long-term effect on the business, the involvement of executive-level personnel for decision making is indispensable.
Development and Testing of Concepts
After sorting the most realistic project ideas, there is the need to develop those ideas into detailed concepts for the further assessment of their scope. The primary challenge of this step to predict several monetary values associated with a product idea, such as the cost of product development and revenues that it can generate in the future.
Carrying out a SWOT analysis is important during this step to evaluate the existing market conditions. The SWOT analysis concentrates on weighing the strengths & weaknesses of the company and the opportunities & threats prevailing in the business’ environment. The overall objective of the SWOT analysis is to find out both the internal and external factors that work either for or against the project idea under consideration.
Examination of the Idea From the Business’ Perspective
Assessing the demand for the product, identifying the target customer segment, and analyzing the competition in the market, etc. helps a business to make the final decision to develop a product. Moreover, a comprehensive analysis of all the costs associated with the product such as manufacturing/development cost and operational costs also needs to be carried out.
By examining the project idea from a business’ perspective, it becomes easy to conclude that whether the new product will help to elevate the business’s overall growth or not.
Transformation of the Product Concept into a Reality
After a product idea passes all the rigorous analysis and test phases, it’s time to take the call for producing the actual product. However, before going for full-scale production, it is ideal to develop a prototype of the product. The intent of developing prototypes is to examine the product and evaluate its shortcomings. After acknowledging all the deficiencies within the prototype, it becomes imperative to modify the product design to eliminate those defects. In the case of software development, alpha testing is done to discover any bugs in the program that can hamper its functionality.
Market Testing and Commercialization
Once the necessary changes are made in the prototype, the next step is to manufacture the product on a small scale for market testing. In general, the limited stock of the product is distributed to certain markets to get feedback from the customers. If the feedback coming from the customers is positive, then it is a clear indication that the product can be commercialized. In case the feedback is not good, the business has to identify the reasons for customer dissatisfaction and take corrective actions accordingly. Remember that for software development, the market testing step identifies itself as beta testing while the commercialization is known as the public release.
Most businesses that are working in different industries can utilize the aforementioned steps to make their innovative product development a complete success. Additionally, below are some tips to boost the effectiveness of the product development process:
- Use of social media can be a huge advantage in assessing the needs of the customers. Moreover, social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. also make it convenient to collect feedback of the customers regarding a product.
- Documentation of the whole product development process is helpful not only for the ongoing project but for the future endeavors as well. Thus, it is ideal to document the whole process in different segments like design documentation, technical documentation, feasibility reports, marketing documentation, etc.
Almost every business aims to develop new products so that they attract more customers and gain maximum market shares. Additionally, the extreme competition to come up with innovative products is also evident in the software industry. However, to develop new and innovative products successfully, businesses need to follow certain steps that collectively realize a proactive product/software development process.