Product development most commonly refers to the process of bringing a new product to market. That being said, it can also refer to the redevelopment of a current product that no longer meets market needs or needs to be changed in some way in response to a competitor’s product.. Whichever the case may be it is important for an organization to know how products are developed in order to complete the process on time and on budget.
New product research begins with a brain storming phase. Some call it the Fuzzy Front End (FFE) or Idea Generation phase (For more information of FFE see here. Whatever one chooses to call it, it is the stage in which a new product is conceptualized. The team looks at what market needs they trying to fill and what will the physical form of the product take on. Many different ideas may be developed at this stage and this part of the product development process is usually quite time consuming.
Once an organization has decided upon a product concept it is time to research exactly how the product will be developed. This is often referred to as the Research and Development phase. It is not uncommon that new technologies will have to be developed in order to turn the concept to real world object. For this reason, the process can be quite resource expensive and is the stage where most projects ultimately fail.
As the name implies, R&D is divided into two processes; research and development. The research phase is devoted to developing technologies and/or materials that meet the products needs. The development phase is the actual assembling of the product; taking a concept and technology/material innovation and turning it into something with utility.
The Research and Development phase, if done correctly, produces a prototype. This prototype needs to undergo a series of tests to allow an organization to determine if it meets the requirements outlined in the Idea Generation or Fuzzy Front End phase. The first question to answer is “does the product do what it is supposed to do?”. If it does, the product is usually given a live test where customers tryout the product and deliver their feedback.
The data gathered from the testing phase is then analyzed to determine if the product meets all requirements. If it does not, the project is either scrapped or sent back to the research and development phase. This phase is very important as there is no financial gain from bringing a product to market that will not receive a positive response.
If it is determined that the product is viable an organization will begin a marketing campaign. In the first phase of new product development the target market is always outlined. A company needs to develop a strategy to access this market with their new product. If potential clients do not know the product exists it is very unlikely that they will end up purchasing it.