The Dogmatic PM’s Guide to Product Development

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When you understand product development, building a winning customer experience is easy. Learn more in our guide!

There are a lot of ways your product can fail. When your job as a product owner is to ensure that doesn’t happen, it’s important to verify that every part of your organization understands product development inside and out. That understanding is the key to creating a winning product experience for your customers.

But taking products from idea through to release takes time and focus. You need to be rigorous in how you approach product development, documenting everything that goes into it. Processes, workflows, and goals lay out every step of the process clearly, so it’s easy to execute on and move forward as a team.

That way, whether you’re thinking about how to validate an idea for a new feature or communicating business goals to your team, you have an outcome in mind.

When you define your process in this way, you’re not just making the job of becoming a product owner easier for yourself, but you’re also providing valuable clarity and visibility for your team. That’s why we’ve put together the following guide to help you get started. Think of it as your jumping-off point, the resource you come back to when you need to break from setting requirements or following up on individual tasks.

What Is Product Development?

Product development is a way of looking at how your team creates value for customers. It underpins every decision you make for your business — because while people fall in love with brands, what they actually buy are products. You need to nail the product experience to succeed as a business.

There’s a considerable amount of work that goes into launching a new product or feature to market. Being able to take an idea from inception all the way through to release is how you win your customers’ hard-earned income. Product development helps your team work together and move things forward efficiently without sacrificing quality for your customers.

But becoming a product-centric organization won’t happen overnight. Becoming truly great at product development requires a mix of high-level strategic thinking, as well as day-to-day process management. And that’s just for your team — creating a seamless product experience requires a deep understanding of market and customer needs as well.

When you combine this with a solid plan, it’s easy to conceptualize the product development process and create more efficient and effective workflows for your team. The first step is to understand how you think strategically about product development.

How to Define Your Product Development Strategy

So, you have this idea. It’s a good one — at least, you think so. But there’s a lot of work that needs to happen before you take that product idea to market. And every step of the process is rife with potential issues. By proactively assessing your product development strategy, you make it easier on yourself as things proceed.

A well-defined product development strategy also makes communicating your plans to the team clear and easy to follow. You need a solid understanding of customers’ needs, your business goals, and your team’s resource availability to effectively work through the product development process.

Creating a winning product development strategy is all about marrying these things together.

Refining This Strategy Helps You Determine the Right Product Concept

Creating a fully fleshed-out product development strategy gets you closer to nailing down your product concept. When you get this concept right, you set your team up for a successful release. When you get it wrong, it can do irreparable damage to your customer relationships.

Understanding how to adjust a poor product concept is key to building more valuable and engaging products for your customers. Learn how to proactively address issues with your product concept here.

Once you have a concept in mind, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll take that idea and make it into something of real-world value for customers and the target market. Basically, you need to start thinking about its life cycle.

Mapping Each Stage of the Product Development Life Cycle?

Mapping the product development life cycle is crucial to creating better processes and workflows for your team. Every product or feature you build follows the same evolution, from initial idea all the way through to active development and, finally, release. From there, it’s all about how to support your new product and make it easy for customers to adopt.

The standard product development life cycle spans seven stages:

  1. Plan: Creating a plan based on research and talking to customers about their needs
  2. Build: Executing on your product plan as a team
  3. Test: Opening up the product to customer feedback prior to full market launch
  4. Launch: Releasing the product to all of your customers
  5. Analyze: Analyzing the impact your product has on the customer experience and your business goals
  6. Iterate: Synthesizing your analysis and making changes based on those findings
  7. Support: Actively working with customers to make sure the product experience is as good as it can be

Understanding how your team, your organization, and your products flow through these stages helps you create better and more efficient processes for your team.

Building a Product Development Process to Match the Life Cycle

Once you understand the product development life cycle, building a concrete product development process isn’t as complex as you think. All you need to do is take each stage of the life cycle and define workflows for your team that help them move forward as efficiently as possible.

That’s why it’s no surprise that the product development process also follows seven steps:

  1. Ideation: Documenting every potential idea for new products or features
  2. Validation: Narrowing down ideas into something of value for customers and your business
  3. Planning: Defining a strategy, roadmap, and success metrics for the tasks required to build your product
  4. Active development: Working through the tasks defined in your product development plan
  5. User testing: Introducing your product or feature to a select group of customers to get targeted feedback
  6. Product release: Launching your product to the entire market
  7. Analysis: Looking at how your release made an impact on your success metrics and the customer experience

Pay attention to how the various processes involved are front-loaded onto the planning stage of the product development life cycle. Creating a winning product is all about understanding customer needs/wants and connecting them with business outcomes.

There are a number of ways to execute on these tasks. Your job as a product owner is to figure out how to refine the product development process to fit your team’s needs.

How to Choose the Right Product Development Framework

Let’s say you have a strong product development strategy in place, a well-defined product development process, and a solid understanding of your product development life cycle. The next step toward building a truly product-focused organization is learning about the different kinds of development frameworks available and how they benefit your team.

There are two core methodologies that help define the way your team thinks about the product development process: lean and agile.

Use Lean Product Development to Reduce Waste

The lean product development methodology is laser-focused on one thing — reducing waste. Whether it’s wasted time, wasted resources, or wasted effort, this product development framework is a great way to think holistically about how your team uses available resources to create value for customers and your business.

This focus on reduction is what helps you take big ideas or difficult-to-conceptualize goals and ground them in reality. But it’s not just about cutting costs or reducing time-to-market. Lean product development helps your team focus on getting the most value out of every available resource.

Learn more in Lean Product Development: What is it and is it Truly Useful?

Use Agile Product Development to Adapt Processes for Your team

Agile product development is all about adaptability — use it to deliver continual value as a product team. That not only helps you release products faster, but it also helps your team learn what processes and workflows work best for their goals.

Being able to adapt and evolve existing processes for each team’s individual needs is the key to a more efficient and, ultimately, more effective product development process. As your organization grows, becoming agile helps you stay connected to the ever-changing goals and requirements of your team and customers.

Learn more in Your Doing Agile Product Development Wrong, and That’s Okay.

Product Development Is the Key to Business Success

As a product owner, you have your hands in a lot of different kinds of work. At key points throughout the product development process, you’ll need to define business goals, define processes, and track progress—all while staying connected to customer needs and outcomes.

When you understand everything that goes into product development, it helps you systematize your team’s approach to delivering value to customers. Being able to showcase this value on a continual basis is what builds strong and engaged customer relationships that help your business grow.