Product development can be a big and risky investment for many businesses. In all the excitement to introduce something new to the marketplace, a lot of money and time can be wasted.
But this can be avoided if a company is aware of some of the most common mistakes. The following tips may be able to help increase product development success.
1. Be realistic about what product development entails.
There are three goals that should not be attempted at the same time: great, fast and cheap.
Be realistic—outstanding product development takes time and money. Trying to get a great product made fast and cheaply can lead to a compromised product that is ineffective at solving any customer's problem in the marketplace.
2. Create a monetary and manpower budget (and stick to it).
Unfortunately, throwing more resources at a problem or project doesn't always mean quicker or more effective results.
When creating a budget, analyze the expected return from the product and how much the company can invest over a set period. Try to avoid further funding of “almost completed products" that won't show a significant return based on the additional resources that are needed.
3. Watch out for expensive taste on a low budget.
Most companies want to develop the best product in the marketplace, but every company needs to be realistic and work within their financial limitations.
Decide what your company can invest in the upcoming product development cycle based on the cash and skilled resources that are available. A minimal viable product may initially be introduced to the marketplace, so it can start generating sales. (Additional features can be added later.)
4. Hire the right person to use the best development tool.
Even the most effective tools and set of processes can fail when they're being executed by the wrong person.
Try not to ask a person to lead a project when they have no experience or few resources to accomplish the task. Most successful product development is done by experts in their fields and a team with complementary skills.
5. Put more focus on the market, not just the product.
While most of us know that building the best product doesn't guarantee that customers will buy it, too many companies still see it this way. They are so focused on designing and producing new products with all sorts of features, that they delay the important work of getting it ready to market until it is too late.
I suggest developing the marketing plan up front with the product development plan. It helps to have a product with a primary feature that is focused on a known problem for customers. (Or, simply stated, “What do they want the product to do for them?")
Marketing can then focus on how they will hear about your product as a solution.
6. Get feedback from real customers (and soon).
Many companies fear that negative feedback early in the process may derail their carefully planned product development effort (and bruise their ego). Admittedly, it can, but this may be a good thing!
Too many times, the only comments on a product are coming from inside the company. This counts for little since those working on the product won't be major purchasers. That's why it's important to get feedback from real customers who would be using the product as soon as possible.
7. Realize that nothing will go exactly as planned.
Some product development efforts fail because the company is not ready for a successful demand of what they created. Having an influx of new customers can stress every department within the organization including customer support. In addition, the business could be faced with these additional costs without yet having the revenue from those new customers.
I believe product development plans need to have built-in flexibility to be prepared for unanticipated delays. Consider developing timelines that build in at least a 20 percent cushion of time and financial investment to avoid other delays.
But remember that the unexpected can be beneficial. It brings challenges that force the company to look at the problem and its solutions from a totally new point of view. Many times, this can have a positive impact on the desired outcome.
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