What is the Product Development Process / Product Development Lifecycle?
In simple words, the Product Development process is the process or a series of steps that every product goes through in its lifetime. It is also called the Product development process lifecycle or product development lifecycle.
Stages in Product Development Process or Stages in Product Development Lifecycle
There are seven main phases in the product development process. They are
- Steady-state, and
- Either maintain or kill the product.
Conceive phase is the first phase in the Product Development Process or Product Development Lifecycle. This is the stage, where we collect user problems and brainstorm possible solutions. We identify the focus areas we want to work on.
The biggest source of ideas for this phase is usually inside of a company from the employees of that company themselves.
In the Plan stage of the product development lifecycle, we do market research.
Previously we saw that, in the Conceive phase, various solutions are thought out for the problems that the product intends to solve. In the Plan Phase, research is done on those solution ideas.
In this phase, We look at the business case, and try to answer the question “Is this something that’s going to make us money?”, We do customer interviews and see if people has the problem that your solution intends to solve, further, We also roadmap out what we think we could make, how long it might take, and at what point we should have particular features if we’re actually going to do this.
DEVELOP stage is the third stage of the Product Development Lifecycle, where we actually start building the product. Detailed timelines for product development are made and all the features that we are going to have in the final product are written down.
User stories are detailed required specifications are made in this phase. Further, In collaboration with the development team very specific details such as how long will it take for development, resource requirements, etc.
By the time we begin developing, the requirements should be set, and they really shouldn’t change until we get some sort of validation on the early parts of the completed product, which is our Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
By the end of this phase, we will have our very early prototype or the early Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of the product we’re developing.
ITERATE is the fourth stage of the Product Development Process. This phase starts once we have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of the final product.
In the Iterate Phase, We get early feedback from users, We test the assumptions that we made with the original idea for the product. We don’t wait until we are all the way done because we want to get the testing in as early as possible from the users. So, an Alpha version, a Beta version of the product are released and the user feedback is obtained. This is done because the product is not complete and we would want to make sure that we are heading in the right direction before we do a full launch of the final product.
In the Launch stage of the product development lifecycle, we work with the marketing team, the legal team, the PR team, the sales team, and we want to position this product for public launch.
This is the phase when the final product is sent out to the public. The public response to the product should be closely and carefully gauzed.
The sixth stage in the Product Development process is called steady-state or just basically hold it in either a steady-state or continue iterating on it.
In this phase we collect metrics on how people are using your product, how often are people buying it. We then analyze the product, we optimize our metrics, and we try to get the maximum return for investment on the product.
We assess our continued efforts here to basically see how likely doe we continue to move forward with this product.
MAINTAIN OR KILL PRODUCT
Maintain or kill is the seventh and final phase of the product development process.
In this phase we decide, using all the data we’ve already gathered and especially from the previous phase and try to answer various questions such as, how frequently are people purchasing our product?, are we staying on top of the market with this product?, are we competitive with this product?, And we look at, more importantly, how much money are we spending to maintain it, to see, is it even paying for itself? How is our return on investment?
Based on the answers to the above questions, the decision to maintain the product or kill the product is made. If the product is not doing so well then maybe we decide to kill it and we decide to move on to something new.
And one thing that’s important to mention here is that not all the times the decision to maintain or kill the product is made based on the revenue of the product or user base. There could be other reasons such as, the product could not fit the company vision anymore – Company’s executives and the people that are leading the company might decide just based on the market circumstance that the company is now going in a different direction. So we need to go ahead and cut our losses on that product or go ahead and put it to bed.
If we decide to kill a product, then we do what’s called sunsetting.
Sunsetting is a slow transition to the end of the life of the product. We message our user base, we tell them what’s going on, and we have an end of life plan for the users and the people that may rely on it.
So these are the seven main phases of the Product Development Process: Conceive, Plan, Develop, Iterate, Launch, Steady-state, and then finally Maintain it or Kill it.
This is a process that every product goes through, but it is not mandatory that you will be using these exact terms that we discussed in every organization. The terminology can vary from one organization to another. However, it is very important as a product manager to understand that every type of product or company goes through these different phases.