Product development is an essential part of a startup’s business strategy, and companies employ several activities to deliver new products to the market. The most successful startups ensure that their processes are well designed and focused on continuous improvement so that their products can consistently outpace the competition. The more complex the final product, the more complex the new product development processes will have to be, and the higher the need for oversight and quality control. All products need to be developed from the outset with a clear goal in mind and a well laid out strategy in order to be successful.
What are the phases of new product development?
The product development process has four phases:
- Fuzzy front-end (FFE) development is the set of activities that occur prior to design, and involves setting the broad goals and requirements of the product. This includes:
- Doing market research
- Surveying the target audience
- Taking suggestions from partners
- Looking at competing products
- Analysing ROI and feasibility
- Product design puts the fuzzy front end principles into practice, looking at specific ways to achieve the product goals and meet the basic requirements. This phase will often include:
- Creating draft design documents
- Creating product specification sheets
- Designing a manufacturing process
- Determining material requirements
- Product implementation is more detailed phase which includes design of hardware and software, design of soft goods or other product forms, as well as testing to validate that the prototypes meet the design specifications and the requirements. Product implementation includes:
- Building working prototypes
- Running consumer tests
- Iterating on the design to solve problems and inefficiencies
- Fuzzy back-end (also known as commercialisation) includes the broad range of activities undertaken to bring the finalised prototype to market, such as marketing and aesthetic design. This will typically include:
- Creating a name and brand for the product
- Designing packaging
- Writing copy
- Creating a marketing strategy
- Looking for sales avenues
- Exploring distribution options
What are the common pitfalls of product development?
New businesses make a number of mistakes when it comes to creating new products, but these can easily be avoided with proper planning. The most common errors are:
- Improper scheduling: developing a new product requires a lot of moving parts, and it’s vital that every team member has clear timelines to work to.
- Neglecting marketing: the purpose of any new product is to sell well and generate revenue, so marketing considerations should be discussed from the outset of any new product development project.
- Being unprepared for success: if a new product becomes popular quickly, it is essential that the business can meet the demand and scale accordingly, otherwise they may miss their opportunity completely and alienate their customers.
- Missing the launch deadline: if a business sets a deadline, it has to meet it, otherwise customers lose faith in the company and the product.
- Ignoring beta testers: early testing is vital to the success of any new product, but many businesses foolishly disregard the results, believing that they know better than their customers how to develop the new product.