Product development is the process your team uses to launch effective, well-researched, and in-demand products. Many teams will need to collaborate on product development to get a project all the way from an idea to a successful launch, and your product may go through many rounds of iteration and research. Because the product development experience is so collaborative and involved, you’ll need to make sure you create an organized process and choose the right tools to get you there.
- Product development will go through stages of research and iterations of building and testing.
- Product management is concerned with what product to build, while product development figures out how.
- Help your teams work together on your product development roadmap:
- Plan an efficient flow by balancing time-use and limiting project juggling.
- Focus your strategy on customer feedback and needs.
- Encourage data democracy.
- Choose tools that will make the product development process more effective, such as:
What is product development?
Product development is the journey a product takes from conception to market release. Product teams work together to research, create a roadmap, prototype the product, conduct testing, and get customer feedback before launching the product in collaboration with marketing. A successful product is one that meets a market need and fulfills the expectations of customers, so each step in the process is essential.
Key stages of product development
Any new product or product improvement will go through a product development process to ensure the idea is viable and the end product is effective. Each step in this process is important, and some—such as testing—may be repeated until the end result is satisfactory.
1. Research and idea generation
Brainstorm new product ideas or approaches to improving an existing product. Ideas should be based on market research, customer needs, product functionality, and pricing. Aim to identify a market need where your product can fill a gap. You can use ideation frameworks to guide this process, such as a SWOT analysis.
2. Product scope definition
Refine the idea and define the specifics of the project.
- Conduct business analysis to make sure the project is viable.
- Define the value proposition to be clear about the problem your product is solving.
- Identify what metrics will define success for the project.
- Lay out the marketing strategy.
3. Product roadmap creation
The roadmap is a high-level overview of the vision and strategy you’ve established that aligns all internal stakeholders on your product development process. It specifies what you’re building and why. It lists product requirements and ties them in to the strategic goals of the company.
4. Concept prototyping
Begin prototyping and developing to create a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is a product that has the minimum functionality—it is used to identify flaws and conduct market testing to gain initial feedback. Prototyping your product allows you to identify problems and areas of opportunity earlier in the process, saving your team from having to redo advanced work.
5. Execution and testing
Execute on the concept, working through any issues uncovered during prototyping and testing. Base development off of accurate product analytics and behavioral analytics to keep your team moving in the right direction. Your product will go through multiple iterations as you receive feedback. Testing should include:
- Market testing: Identifies the existing market and customer needs the product meets.
- Customer feedback: Gets feedback from users on the functionality and experience of the product as it’s developing.
- Beta/functionality testing: Uncovers bugs or usability issues with the product.
6. Market entry
Your product is ready for commercialization. Launch the product and marketing campaign. At this point, the design is finalized, fully tested, and ready for implementation. Monitor the metrics you established during product scoping to assess the success of the product and prepare to launch improvements in the future.
Differences between product development and product management
Product management is concerned with what product to build, while product development figures out how. Product management and product development teams work together, with management plotting the course of the product’s development and development executing it. The product development team is multi-disciplinary, consisting of product managers, engineers, and product designers.
The product management team builds a strategic roadmap for product development with a focus on conducting market research, analyzing customer feedback, and translating that research into product requirements (all while following these product management best practices). The product development team executes that roadmap, bringing the product from concept to market. They make sure the product is technically sound and meets quality assurance standards.
Turning your product development roadmap into action
The first step is to get buy-in on your product development roadmap from all the internal stakeholders involved. Once everyone is in agreement, you can begin executing your roadmap. Use tried-and-true product development strategies to make your product development run smoothly and help your teams collaborate.
Plan the flow of your product development process
The product development experience takes time and energy, and it also involves a lot of downtime while waiting for feedback or revisions to be done. You want to plan a schedule that uses time efficiently and still allows your teams to focus. If you put too many projects on your plate simultaneously, quality will suffer as team members try to juggle them.
Create an effective flow for your product development process by limiting simultaneous work in progress, reducing how many hand-offs happen, and cross-training teams so they can collaborate more easily. This will create a cadence that supports more innovative work.
Create a product development strategy that focuses on customer needs
You need to understand your customers and how they interact with your product in order to make the best decisions for your product development process. This is where customer value chains can be a helpful tool. Ask questions about customers’ wants and needs, pain points, and how easily they’re able to navigate your product and combine that information with hard data from product analytics to guide your product development.
Use data democracy to support effective teamwork
With so many stakeholders involved in product development, you don’t want to gatekeep the important data they need to make decisions. Data democratization will take pressure off your data teams and will also help your product teams more deeply understand the information the data team has gathered.
It isn’t just your data team that should have deeper access to your research. Marketing, engineering, product teams, and even executives will all benefit from understandable data.
Data democracy is about more than just access. It’s about giving your non-technical teams tools—such as software and educational resources—to work with that data comfortably, ask questions freely, and make decisions informed by that data while they build your product.
Examples of product development plans in action
For inspiration and tips, look at these product development exampes—three companies that created efficient processes for their product development plans.
Under Armour Connected Fitness is a network of fitness apps, and they frequently need to launch new products and features. With help from Amplitude Analytics, they were able to iterate faster during product development by shortening the customer validation window. The Under Armour Connected Fitness team is now free to build and test more features because they’re able to measure success and learn quickly.
HubSpot uses product analytics to build products that are based on user behavior. Their product team uses actionable data on individual user and cohort behavior to iterate their product development effectively and build features that improve customer experience.
While developing new features, letgo runs A/B testing and then analyzes the results to drive their decision-making. They’ve streamlined their analysis process to make their product development run faster and help their team make data-driven decisions.
Tools to aid your product development process
It takes a lot of iteration, collaboration, and feedback processing to get a product successfully through development. You need project development and management software that will enable your teams to collaborate on each stage, delegate tasks, tag relevant stakeholders, and have visibility on customer feedback and data.
Amplitude Analytics will give you the data and feedback you need to guide your product development process. Use Amplitude to give your team information on customer behavior and experience and understand feature adoption, user engagement, and customer retention. Get valuable information that will help you generate ideas grounded in real data, develop products more effectively, and analyze existing products for opportunities for improvement.
Atlassian makes tools that will help your agile development team keep organized and stay on the same page. Their software Jira will help you track bugs and optimize your product. It has tools like Jira Core that enable communication and collaboration with your non-technical teams. Their other core product, Trello, will help you track projects and to-dos, and manage projects transparently.
To use customer feedback data most effectively, you want to track it and keep it organized. Productboard has a range of features to help you do that, including boards for prioritization, insights, and user engagement. No matter where you’re getting your customer data from, Productboard gives you a single place to consolidate feedback and gain actionable insights. You can use it to create a product roadmap and share data among your entire team.
Collaboration is essential for effective product development. Asana is a project management tool that focuses on organized, successful team collaboration. You can use their templates to build product roadmaps for your team. You can also track bugs, collect customer feedback, and keep everyone focused on team goals and objectives.
Whether you’re prototyping, doing an intensive design sprint, or getting feedback from your teams, Figma will be a useful tool for the design and development of your product. Collaborative feedback tools like FigJam make it easy for all of your teams to collaborate on design, even those who aren’t familiar with design software. You can live-prototype directly in the program and use those prototypes in research and user testing.
- “Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) Analysis.” Investopedia
- “What is Beta Testing?.” ProductPlan
- “Market Testing.” Entrepreneur
- “Six Myths of Product Development.” Harvard Business Review
- “Looking to Achieve New Product Success? Listen to Your Customers.” Nielsen
Thinking about your next product development roadmap? Make sure you’ve identified the right metrics with our North Star playbook.