When running any business, no matter the size, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the bigger picture without paying enough attention to the single most important area of your business – product development. I’ve written many an article on brand development, marketing and service delivery which all stress the importance of delivering an offering that meets the needs of your consumer and product development is at the very heart of everything. If your product doesn’t meet your customers’ needs or expectations, you will have no customers to make happy!
This is especially pertinent to new businesses, where it’s all too easy to lose sight of what really matters. Here are six tips to help strengthen your product development lifecycle and increase your chance of success:
Give it the time it deserves – ‘More haste, less speed’ – it’s an old ‘un but a good ‘un and it’s highly relevant here. Rushing product development can be hugely detrimental. Often an outstanding product idea is prioritised for a quick launch, because it’s so amazing, then it is pushed at every stage of the process and the end result is often far below the initial expectations. When you are certain that you’re on to a winner it can be so tempting to miss out stages of the product development life cycle, such as market research or reduced product testing, but do so at your own peril. Failing to validate your ideas and assumptions may get your product to market sooner but if you miss something crucial it could completely flop when launched. Development of great products takes time and patience.
Involvement from the outset – avoid unnecessary delays and lessen the likelihood of them occurring by involving all parties from the word go. Designers, engineers, research and logistics teams working together from the initial ideas stage will identify and iron out any complications as soon as possible, meaning less pressure and time wasted further down the line.
Account for unpredictability – product development is far from straight forward and with so many steps to market it’s easy for something unexpected to crop up. Make sure your project plan has adequate time built in for contingencies, such as additional testing stages, should the need arise.
Set realistic timelines – taking into account all the points above, it’s important to set achievable launch dates. All too often senior management will have a launch date in mind, which is often unfounded and unachievable. Far from giving focus, this approach often results in immense pressure being put on the product development team. Start by working backwards and ask to see a detailed, realistic project plan first with anticipated launch, then agree a date from there. If step 2 above has been followed, and all teams have been involved to draw up the plan, then everyone will be clear on what’s expected of them.
Stay agile – harder for larger organisations to do but this is where small, flexible businesses will do well. Remaining flexible in your approach to product development can save you precious time and money in the long run and allows you to remain innovative. Yes, you want to develop a product but rigidly following your plans can leave you blinkered and prevent you from looking in different directions that may produce better results.
Don’t stretch resources – as tempting as it may be it’s better to concentrate on developing a few products that excel than having your employees juggling multiple product launches badly. This is particularly pertinent to young businesses where building up your product portfolio slowly and mindfully and getting an understanding of your customers’ response to the products, is the safest move.