The 6 phases of product development explained with practical examples
How can companies develop innovative products quickly, cost-effectively and user-oriented in order to shape the future of industry?
Right now it is more important than ever to make all phases of product development as lean and cost-efficient as possible.
If you want to save money and time, concrete goals of each individual product development phase are essential.
We give you the right tips for a structured, safe and targeted process.
Stage 1: The Base
Before a product is created, its raison d’être must be clarified. What needs does the product cover? Who does it serve? The initial question of why a product exists forms the foundation of all further steps.
The initial situation can vary from project to project. These two approaches describe the project basis in more detail:
1) The product innovation
The dream of every inventor is a completely new product innovation.
“The first steam-powered drive motor”, “The first electric light source”, or “Cycling assisted by solar energy”. What sounds insignificant at first started a groundbreaking chain reaction many years ago. Entire industries are emerging with new technology and products equipped with it can improve everyday life.
Increase your chances of driving real successful product innovation. Be it by linking alienated areas with “ cross-pollination ” (= creating cross-connections) or a technical experiment. Critical thinking and the active search for solutions is required.
Bionics is proof that close observation of nature leads to successful innovations. Evolution had millions of years to optimize functional mechanisms down to the last detail – this advantage can be used!
2) The follow-up product
In contrast to the product innovation, the subsequent product is not fundamentally new. Examples of this type of product development could be:
- Optimization of usability
- Integration of new technical developments
- Extension of the product function
As part of a subsequent product, a change is made to the external appearance, the internal technology or the overall design. Further improvements such as energy-saving use, cost-effective design and brand rebranding are often pursued as goals.
If an existing product with clear specifications is available, the basis of product development is different than when a product innovation is created from scratch.
Stage 2: Ideate
The ideation describes the process of generating ideas. Here you can collect a large variety of different ideas. Creativity techniques such as brainstorming, brainwriting, sketching, etc. will help you to generate different solutions. Why so many? The first idea may not yet be mature and ready for the series. In addition, the further collection of ideas may solve the problem of an important key point that leads to the success of your product.
What has to be considered during the idea: quantity over quality!
During the joint brainstorming, all ideas are collected on a large flipchart. This illustration inspires progress and allows building on other ideas from the group.
Here are some brainstorming rules to keep in mind:
- wild ideas are welcome
- Refrain from criticizing ideas
- constructive ideas are possible
- fast and easy
It is important to keep the needs of the target group in mind. Do you know all the requirements, expectations & “pain points” of your potential users? After all, you don’t want to develop a product that ignores the needs of future customers. This is the only way to ensure that your products are accepted by customers and become successful on the market.
A well-established technique of the first phase of product development is “design thinking” . This problem-solving process is characterized by its practical illustration of solutions:
A problem is identified, solutions are outlined and then tested directly with the simplest tools. Optimization is then on the agenda: let the experience flow into the design, optimize and “ go ” – start all over again.
Note the following basic steps in the product development process:
- User is the focus
- Clearly define goals
- Collect and test ideas
Stage 3: Proof of Concept
In the proof of concept , your idea is checked. The aim of this product development phase is to prove the technical feasibility. In this way, you can avoid unnecessary development costs later in the process.
The proof of concept in 5 easy steps:
- Requirements Validation
Find out which critical pain points are burdening your users. Interviews with subjects from the target group help to find out the relevant requirements.
- Idea generation of the best solution
Use the most effective creative methods to generate solutions. Then evaluated and optimized by quick tests to incorporate your goals and capacities into the project.
- Evaluation of the technical feasibility
Identify the technical sticking points and create a technical concept for your idea.
- Documenting the findings
In order for you to become better in the future development loops, it is important to document what you have learned , successes and frustrations. This is how your successes multiply constantly.
- Demand confirmation
It is now important for all steps of product development to be able to build on the knowledge gained. The proof of concept provides you with proof that added value is really generated for your users and that your project can be implemented from a technical point of view. Consistency and honesty with the evaluation pays off.
The proof of concept helps you to critically question your idea and at the same time tests it for technical feasibility. Also: In presentations, it is a great advantage if you can show concrete results of your tests. User studies at an early stage of development provide a solid argument for the pitch (= presentation of ideas). This is how your proof of concept convinces with practical experience.
Read more: new product development companies
Stage 4: prototyping
The fourth phase of product development is prototyping. A prototype is a physical model that comes very close to your final product in terms of visual and functional properties. So that you don’t put all your energy into this model, please note the following:
The goal is to create an initial pattern. With 3D printers , cost-effective prototypes can be created and then tested. The prototype gains in quality through rapid repetition phases.
The main focus is on testing and optimizing the product. It is therefore essential in this phase of product development to work directly with the customer and to test it with your user group right away. The big advantage of this is that you can quickly integrate the feedback into your product without incurring high development costs due to expensive tools.
In prototyping, you optimize user-friendliness and can ultimately be sure that your product will be accepted on the market.
These questions provide you with the most important answers for phase 4:
- Who will use the product?
- Which features (= product properties) do you want to test?
- Where is the product used?
- How is the product operated?
Phase 5: The right certification
The certification phase is the be-all and end-all in product development when it comes to safety. In many cases, the prerequisite for a product being able to enter the market is the security that the manufacturer can give about the product. Insufficient security is a fatal mistake and can mean the end of the entire company. The aim of certification is to avoid the risk of damage to people or the product. For this purpose, guidelines were created in product development that provide comprehensive protection.
An example of this are the protection classes for electronic devices, such as IP68 : “protected against dust and splash water”.
Phase 6: Product Rollout
The fifth and final phase of product development is the product rollout . It builds on the previous development phases and plays a large role in the success or failure of the entire project. With solid preparatory work, you can avoid massive costs here. It is important to cover the right competencies. Marketing with a promising campaign to arouse the greatest possible interest is essential in this last phase.
The product launch is the first release of a product. Depending on the strategy, it is possible to only publish the product within a specific region or a specific target group. Further launch events can start within a rollout. This allows you to further increase customer interest and use the entire marketing capacity to create the best possible market entry.