9 Keys to Product Development

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Developing a successful product and bringing it to market is rarely a task for just one person. Instead, this complex process is a job for a skilled team guided by an experienced project manager.

Learn about nine keys to product development in a tech-based world and discover some of the project management elements that are essential to this process:

Market Orientation

A product developer discusses key components with his team.

No matter the type of product in question, development teams should have a clear understanding of how the new product will fit into the relevant market. Naturally, product development teams are unlikely to want to recreate preexisting technology or to create a product that does not appeal to their target audience.

Product development teams may need to conduct extensive user research and market research to determine market orientation as well as to position the product and the company effectively. Project managers may find value in guiding their teams toward these market orientation goals as they determine the product development cycle, process and strategy.

Knowledge Management

In the tech industry, the knowledge that surrounds product development can be incredibly valuable. Market research, target audience metrics, and competitor data can be time-consuming and costly to generate, as the Interaction Design Foundation reports. In most cases, this information can prove useful far beyond the limits of the development cycle at hand, and it may inform future development cycles or related projects.

Experienced project managers understand the value of this knowledge, and they take responsibility for managing it both during and after product development. In fact, many project managers oversee knowledge management structures for the entire team. This may involve creating and preserving network or cloud-based storage systems as well as granting access to the data during the project and beyond.

Product Development Cycle

Many factors determine the length and timing of the product development cycle, including product type, available technology, staff support, and budget. Most tech companies also consider their competitors’ development cycles, and most strive for the shortest possible cycles. Writing for Y Combinator, Michael Seibel explains that development cycles can be as short as two weeks for basic web-based applications, or they can extend for several months for native apps. Projects that focus on tangible products with manufacturing requirements may require multi-year development cycles.

Project managers may often assist with assessing various factors to determine an appropriate product development cycle. They may also ensure that team members remain engaged and committed throughout the cycle, taking care to give all team members a voice during the development process.

Product Goals and Strategies

For many tech companies, one of the most important keys to product development is determining the product’s goals and the team’s overall strategy. While the goals will vary widely among products, many teams opt to adopt SMART goals, or objectives that are specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based. For tech firms, these may include increasing the user base to a certain number, improving user retention by a specific percentage, or reaching a particular sales level within a certain time frame.

Project managers may work with team members to devise methods for measuring progress toward those goals and ensuring that the team remains focused on the goals at hand. These professionals may also work to ensure that the team adheres to its overall strategy throughout the development process, as consuming additional resources or extending the cycle may compromise the product’s impact and success.

Product Development Process and Milestones

Tech companies that continually develop new products may have a framework that they can use to model each product development process. Others may opt to revise their development processes to accommodate new types of products or even devise completely new processes.

Establishing development milestones is essential for keeping the team on track throughout the product creation process. Most tech products require a series of milestones, which may include brainstorming, determining specifics, creating prototypes, beta testing, error logging, and product deployment.

Essential Technology

For tech firms and startups, designing new products around appropriate technology is essential. Project managers may oversee the process of ensuring that the technology in question is suitable for the project and that it is relevant to the target market.

Product Development Teams

In the tech world, virtually every successful product requires a dedicated development team. While the firm’s department managers and human resources professionals may be charged with assigning appropriate staff members to the team or hiring/contracting those with necessary experience, project managers generally track team members’ duties and oversee team-wide communication. Naturally, ensuring that every member of the team maintains an effective schedule and stays on the same page is important to the success of the final product.

Management Support

In many tech firms, department managers and directors may not actively participate in the product development process. Instead, they often maintain supportive or oversight roles. However, taking this type of role doesn’t make management any less important to the overall success of the product. In fact, project managers should take care to maintain management support and guide expectations throughout the product development process, as doing so may ensure that they receive the necessary staff support and resources.

Product Deployment

Deployment typically signals the end of a product development cycle, but for many project managers, the work does not end when the product launches. Instead, these professionals may take responsibility for overseeing feedback, communicating schedules for bug fixes, and monitoring metrics. Project managers may also collect reports concerning the return on investment (ROI) and communicate these to management or even arrange for the product development team to meet and contribute insights after the cycle ends.

With these nine key factors in place, a skilled project manager has the potential to lead a product development team to success. The New England College Master of Science in Management – Project Management online could be an essential key to success in this fast-paced world of product development.



Product Development Cycle Fundamentals