In our last post, we talked at a high level about the four phases of a product lifecycle; from concept, to development, thru launch and out to end of life. We deconstructed the concept phase a bit in order to stress the importance of creating the customer value proposition for your product early in the lifecycle. The ultimate goal here is to not over invest before having a good understanding of why someone would want to pay you for your solution. Whether you are delivering a complex piece of software, hardware product, solution offering or even cupcakes there is a tried and true cadence to how we develop the “product” even if some of the names look or sound a little different in your particular industry.
Market Requirements – This phase includes things like the value proposition, customer demographics, addressable market sizing, high level go to market planning and financials with enough details to determine if this is a good investment. We’ll continue to mature these items during the development of the customer offering as we learn more, refine the product and tweak the market plan. However, without a full view of the product from concept to customer, you risk repeating the product development all over again as you will miss a feature, mis-price or simply estimate the market incorrectly.
“If I had 8hrs to cut down a tree, I’d spend 6hrs sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln
Engineering Validation – This phase is all about whether what was outlined in the market requirements document is actually deliverable in the time required, at the cost needed and to the quality level expected by the customer. Other than maturing the product concept in this phase, we need to be reviewing whether there is any new information from the market that needs to be incorporated while we still haven’t spent too much money. The goal of this phase is a contract of sorts between the development team and the business showing an aligned product strategy with agreed upon delivery expectations for our customers. Focus on ensuring you have a well-defined customer identified, and can deliver a product that they want to the specifications previously outlined.
Design Verification – The fundamental importance of this phase is to determine whether you can deliver on your commitments as outlined in the specification. It is here that we perform specific and comprehensive product verification tests to ensure we can create a shippable product. Whether this is validating our physical product specifications, verifying the interface specifications or ensuring you are compliant with all regulatory requirements for the system, this can be the longest part of your overall product development. There will be many ups and downs you go through as it feels like you just figure out one part and something else now needs to be fixed. Slow down and plan each step through this phase or you can easily see yourself going off the rails.
Production Validation – We now have a product, produced in reasonable quantities to an acceptable feature set in compliance with any regulatory requirements. Now, what happens when we scale for production? When we make 1,000 units instead of 100 does our yield drop precipitously? When we install on multiple platforms and corner case test longer than a night, does the smoke get out? And, when I try to make more than 10 cupcakes, does the recipe scale in line with my measuring instruments? This is the phase where we answer all these very important questions. As an SME business owner, you can easily get caught up in your success of the DVT phase you just exited and get moving to customers and you’d be well justified in wanted to do so. You’ve been through the ups and downs of the product development phases and want to get your game changing solution out to customers. You’ve spent money; you’ve lost sleep and desperately want to get your pain killer solution out to the market. Take a step back and ensure you’ve covered the bases of validating your steady state product through this phase. Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!
So, now you’ve defined a pain killing solution, you’ve documented your value proposition and now you’ve developed it for the market. Now, we just need to launch it! We’ll cover that section of the ride in a future post.