How does the life of a product begin? You might think that all you need is a groundbreaking idea and that everything else will just fall into place but that definitely isn’t the case. The product development process, especially in today’s dynamic and highly competitive product environment, is lengthy and it requires tons of crucial activities before you can even think about money, fame and success.
Transforming any thought into a profitable product means going through several stages of product development, each equally important to a triumphant product launch. The following article will examine each one of those specific product development stages. Moreover, we will also talk about the role of the product manager and how important it is to hire the right product management consultant for your next big break.
What is a Product Manager?
Before moving on to the several stages of product development, let’s try to define what a product manager is and why it is so important to have a product manager onboard.
A product manager is someone who leads product development right from the very beginning. A product manager creates the internal and external product vision, identifies customer needs, works with stakeholders, builds high-performing teams and is responsible for the overall success of a product.
A product manager has to be extremely knowledgeable in many spheres, including technologies, business, customer experience and more. They have to be able to notice a great new product development opportunity or identify ways to improve an existing one by adding necessary characteristics to it. What else?
A product manager develops product vision and strategy. What is the long-term mission of a project? How will the desired result be achieved? What’s the product strategy? - These are all questions that a product manager must be able to answer.
A product manager is in charge of teams and stakeholders. The importance of teamwork in the workplace must be highlighted by the product manager. After all, the success of the product depends on how well the team performs and whether the main goal can be achieved. A product manager communicates requirements, organizes the development process, leads strategy meetings and negotiates with stakeholders.
A product manager oversees any marketing activities. The way a product is marketed to the public is probably one of the most important factors contributing to product success. Product managers collaborate with marketing managers, observe current industry trends, collect and analyze customer feedback and develop marketing strategies.
A product manager is constantly looking for ways to improve product strategy or the product itself. Product managers analyze data on a daily basis and make well-calculated decisions to reduce the chances of a launch crisis. Their word is always the final one when it comes to what the end-product should be like.
As you can imagine, the responsibilities of a product manager are quite a few. For the above-mentioned reasons and way more, a product manager is absolutely essential to have when your company is developing a product. A product manager with just the right skill set, equipped with leadership abilities, solid knowledge in technology and proven success in marketing is just what you need in order to launch your new product.
What are the Stages of Product Development?
1. Concept / Idea
During the initial stage of product development, a business is generating ideas for a new product. The sources for ideas might include customers, competitors, employees, suppliers, etc. This stage is absolutely crucial as it lays the foundation for the rest of the product development stages. The product ideas that were generated during this stage will guide the process of product development.
A product’s functional and performance requirements can also be defined during this stage.
2. Screen & Define
The second stage of product development involves screening through generated ideas and filtering out the viable ones. Business owners or managers are reaching out to other team members, customers and other business partners to make sure they are thinking in the right direction. What can influence the final decision for which concept or idea to go for can include competition levels, legislation, changes in technologies and more. At the end of this stage, an organization is left with a few feasible ideas to go for.
The goal of this stage is to not end up wasting valuable resources where they are not necessary. You have to focus on developing a product that will solve a certain problem in the market. Once you have it, your firm has to define the needed features of that product. What will differentiate it from the rest of the products? Why is it going to be beneficial to the customers? What are the product’s key features? These are all questions product managers have to know the answers to at this stage.
3. Design & Development
So, you’ve found the solution to a problem and you’ve determined the core characteristics of the product. Now, you have to design and develop it.
This is where designers, engineers and developers come in. Product managers work closely with them to develop mock-ups and end up with a prototype that will go for product testing. Formal engineering (or development) specifications are also created.
During this stage, a product manager establishes teams and is in charge of crafting a roadmap. A roadmap is basically an outline of the journey ahead. From the product vision and early designs, to the actual development stage, important task completions and deadlines - it’s all in the roadmap. This document serves as a reference point to parties involved and should be distributed between designers, product engineers, marketers and all parties involved.
The next stage is testing and it’s one of the most crucial steps of product development. Based on the results of the testing, the business owner decides on whether to go for a large-scale production or not.
Testing of the final product is done in order to also evaluate the design and how well the product meets customer and performance requirements.
The goal of this product development stage is to define marketing objectives. Here, product managers work closely with marketers to define target customers and fundamental marketing channels. It’s absolutely critical to identify the right marketing channels and deliver the messages to the right customers. Product managers, together with marketers have to come up with a simple, truthful and direct campaign that will work. Over-hyping a product before establishing yourself as a market leader is a wrong marketing tactic to go for.
All the planning, testing, designing and marketing have led to this stage. When the product is manufactured or software products (or updates) are released to customers, we can talk about an official launch!
This stage is packed with tons of marketing efforts and executive action. Conferences, product launching parties, press conferences and media coverage are just part of the activities associated with any product launch.
It’s definitely exciting to see your product out there, serving people’s needs and getting good reviews. However, the job’s not done yet.
Compare initial goals to what you actually attained. Product managers have to understand that the newly-launched product becomes an official product of a company’’s portfolio. Therefore, the product would be a subject of ongoing product management activities. Upgrades, improvements, campaign adjustments, etc. - the work definitely doesn’t stop once the product is out. On the contrary, the load, along with responsibilities might get even bigger.
If you have a kick-ass idea for a new product that will meet market needs and will solve current problems, you will inevitably go through each one of the above-mentioned product development steps. Of course, some great ideas might turn out to be impossible to execute due to factors, such as tough competition or lack of resources. That’s why you need a skillful product manager who will help you and your team each step of the way.
Hiring a knowledgeable product manager who will get your product to that last launching stage is a must. Of course, as a business owner you have to know and be ready for any issues, changes and challenges that will inevitably occur along the way. In a highly-competitive, ever-changing market we live in today, be ready for everything. But remember, sometimes a creative idea that will change the rules of the game and a dedicated team behind your back is all you need!