Markets move fast, and you’ll fall behind if you stand around twiddling your thumbs. Creating a product development strategy can help you stay organized and take advantage of available resources and opportunities.
It can seem like an overwhelming task at first — after all, improving your product is no small task, and it’s easy to get lost in the details and forget the bigger picture. But with a solid plan in place, you’ll be able to take a systematic approach and make the most of what you have.
To help you get started, we’ll walk you through what you need to know, then outline some key steps you should take when creating a product development strategy.
What is a product development strategy?
Simply put, a product development strategy is the process of creating or improving products to meet customer needs.
It’s the master plan that guides your team in researching, designing, developing, and testing new products — or enhancing existing ones. A good strategy will help you identify market opportunities and create innovative solutions that give customers what they want.
It involves a lot of different components, from market research to customer feedback and product testing. All of these pieces must come together to create a cohesive plan tailored to your business requirements.
Product development usually includes the following roles and responsibilities:
- Design (UX/UI)
- Product management
What’s the difference between product development and product management?
Product development and product management are often confused — but they have distinct roles.
Product development is the process of creating or improving existing products to meet customer needs. It involves a lot of research and testing to understand the market and customer preferences.
On the other hand, product management ensures that the product meets customer needs and is delivered on time. Product managers are also in charge of marketing the product, creating pricing strategies, and monitoring performance metrics.
Why do you need a product development strategy?
A product development strategy is essential to help you stay organized, allocate resources efficiently, and ensure everyone on your team is on the same page. It’s also crucial to help you identify market opportunities and create innovative solutions that give customers what they want.
By putting the right resources in place and having a clear plan of action, you’ll be able to create or enhance products quickly and efficiently. You’ll also be able to identify potential problems before they arise and quickly spot areas for improvement.
To summarize — a product development strategy will help you do the following:
- Identify market opportunities
- Design, develop, and test products more efficiently
- Monitor performance metrics
- Improve customer satisfaction
- Create innovative solutions that meet customer needs
- Ensure your products are competitive in the marketplace
- Improve communication and collaboration across teams
- Define priorities from the beginning
- Provide the team with feedback and guidance every step of the way
Design thinking as part of the product development strategy
Design thinking is a creative problem-solving approach focusing on user needs and how to meet them best. It involves a lot of customer research and testing, as well as feedback collection and analysis. This data helps you identify customer pain points and design innovative products that address those needs.
The bottom line? By incorporating design thinking into your product development strategy, you’ll be able to create better products.
These five stages — empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test — are the basis of a successful product development strategy. Here’s how to put them into practice.
If you want to solve your users’ problems — which is pretty much your product’s entire reason for existing — you need to start by understanding their needs, goals, and motivations.
This means going out into the field and talking directly to your users. Ask questions about their habits, preferences, and experiences with similar products. Watch them use your products and take note of any areas for improvement. The key here is to get into your users’ shoes and think from their perspective.
A real-world example
A customer is struggling with their hair straighteners. They keep switching off because their thumb knocks against the on/off button while they use the product.
The customer holds the hair tool further down the handle to avoid this. It solves the problem but makes the straighteners harder to handle. This shows the design team that they need to find a way to keep the button in place without making it difficult for the user to operate.
By empathizing with your customers and understanding their problems, you can design a product that addresses their needs. In this case, consider adding a rubber grip to the handle to keep the user’s thumb away from the on/off button while still allowing them to maintain control of the hair straighteners. Or move the button. Trailing and testing will reveal the best option!
Defining the problem means looking at all the data you’ve collected through customer research and identifying clear goals for your project.
What are you trying to solve? What are the main objectives? And how will you measure success? These questions guide your team as they develop a plan of action.
It’s also essential to identify potential risks or challenges during development, such as budget constraints, time limitations, or lack of resources. This way, you can prepare and create contingency plans if needed.
You’ll also need to decide which product metrics you’ll use to measure success so that you can track progress over time. For example — do you want customers to use your product more often, spend more money, or provide better feedback?
Identifying these key performance indicators (KPIs) helps ensure everyone stays focused on the same goal throughout the project.
Once you’ve identified what you need to do and how to achieve it, it’s time for the creative part – ideation!
This is where ideas flow freely, and people come together with different problem-solving approaches. Brainstorming games and design sprints are great for inspiring new ideas but don’t forget about individual ideation. Many of the best solutions come from working alone in a quiet environment. Ideally, begin with this, move into brainstorming, and then go back into solo work. That way, you get a mix of fast and slow thinking and a range of ideas.
During the ideation phase, you’ll also want to consider what technology or platforms you’ll use to create the product. What type of coding and design tools will you use? Will you need to leverage existing technology or create something new from scratch? Answer all these questions before moving on to the next step.
Ideas are great, but without a working prototype, it’s impossible to see how they’ll translate into an actual product. That’s why creating a prototype early on in the process is crucial.
A prototype allows you to test different concepts and features before committing to any one approach. It also gives you a chance to get crucial feedback before you’ve invested significant time and money into the project.
When building your prototype, start with something basic that you can adjust easily as needed — like a wireframe created in a diagramming app. This will ensure the whole team can make changes quickly and share edits with others in just a few clicks. It also makes it easier to test the product in different scenarios and with different user groups — something that’s essential for ironing out issues and bugs early on.
Top tip: working in an agile environment? Prototype rapidly, then release an MVP to get user feedback as early as possible. This allows the team to gather valuable real-world insights and adjust the product accordingly.
Once you’ve created a prototype, it’s time to validate your ideas. This is where customer feedback comes into play – testing your product with real users allows you to see how they interact with it and identify any weak points or potential areas of improvement.
You can also use A/B testing to compare different versions or features and discover the most effective. Additionally, surveys are a great way to understand consumer preferences and get insights into how they perceive your product. All this feedback helps you refine the product and ensure it meets customer needs more effectively — the more, the better!
Once you’ve tested your prototype and are confident it works well, it’s time to launch! This is an exciting yet nerve-wracking moment that requires a lot of planning and preparation.
You’ll need to ensure that your team understands the go-live process, create marketing materials to drive product awareness, and ensure you anticipate any customer service issues and deal with them swiftly. Then, once your product’s out there, it’s time to begin the whole process again!
Product development in an agile environment: tips for success
Product development in an Agile environment requires different skills and processes from traditional product development.
For example, Agile necessitates frequent communication between team members, maximum transparency with data and results, and the ability to respond quickly to customer feedback. It also involves rapid prototyping, so people need to create, launch, and gather feedback quickly and often.
Here are some tips for success:
- Make sure that your team has a clear understanding of the project’s goals and objectives
- Promote an open, collaborative environment among team members
- Use data-driven methods to track progress and make decisions
- Assign roles and responsibilities based on each team member’s strengths
- Break tasks down into smaller chunks so that they can be completed quickly
- Stay flexible — be prepared to adjust the product plan as needed
- Celebrate successes and use failures as opportunities for learning
- Use project management software that features Kanban boards, integrates with development tools, and allows continuous delivery.
Creating a successful product development strategy is no easy task, but it’s well within your reach with the right approach and tools for the job. Start by identifying your goals, ideate ways to reach them, prototype your ideas, validate them with customer feedback, and launch your product. Following this process and sticking to it will up your chances of creating a successful and engaging product that customers love.