/ˈprɒdʌkt dɪˈveləpmənt/

Product development is the process of identifying a large problem and developing a product around it in a way that it gets solved and can be monetized.

Product development requires you to bring members from multiple teams together and align them on a common goal, so you can ultimately build and ship a quality product.

Unlike tracking tickets and issues in isolation that make you lose the bigger picture, when you develop a product, you need to:

  1. Understand the problem
  2. Do market research to see if the problem occurs on a larger scale
  3. Identify the boarder market need
  4. Conceptualize and design the product
  5. Prioritize features
  6. Collaborate cross-functionally and develop the product
  7. Release and iterate based on feedback

How Product Development is changing the way customers are buying

There’s a problem with the way we’re building products today — it no longer matches with our end goal.

Think about it… Your customers have far more options than ever before. And that means delivering exception experience at every step isn’t just essential. It’s table stakes!

82% of your customers leave due to poor experience according to research by the American Society of Quality Control.

And yet, most organizations are still thinking in a single dimension with issues and tickets and work on them in isolation. It isn’t working, and the numbers show it — 80% of the users drop off within the first 3 days after signing up.

The fix?

Teams need to take a holistic approach to build products.

Product development brings members from multiple teams together and allows members to track at a micro-level while seeing how the micro-level updates impact the progress at a macro-level.

But what does Product Development really mean? Some definitions of you might have come across

Product development is commonly confused with product management or sometimes even with the development of the product itself. However, product development is not related to any one specific team in the organization.

You should instead view product development as a cross-functional effort that includes:

  1. Product management
  2. Marketing
  3. Development
  4. Design
  5. Testing or QA
  6. Launch and distribution

How do you get started with Product Development?

Let’s just collaborate with everyone and assign tasks? Err… No!

When you bring all functions of product development together, you’ll notice a large part of it involves work that cut across these functions — handing off assets, transferring knowledge, and aligning all of them towards one goal.

You need a system that helps you streamline your product development efforts, so you never drop the ball when deploying new features.

An ideal product development workflow is one that is flexible and accommodates processes even as you grow or make changes to your team.

To develop products that meet your customers’ standards, you need to be able to do four key things efficiently:

  1. Prioritize the right features for your product
  2. Align team on a common goal
  3. Manage workload and remove roadblocks
  4. Zoom in to track at a single user story, and then zoom out to see how it impacts your bigger picture.

Luckily, most teams have been able to get pieces of this right. However, in the book Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability, Daniel S. Vacanti states we spend only 15% of the time doing the actual work and the rest on waiting.

That means when you spend 19 - 23 days in building a feature, it could’ve been built in lot lesser time.

So, where exactly is the problem in product development?

Today, for most companies, product development looks like this:

How product development happens in most organizations
What product development looks like in most organizations

However, the flow from market research to feature deploy has invisible inefficiencies between them. And a great part of it is spent trying to streamline this process.

Each phase of the product development occurs in different tools and key pieces of information are lost when teams sit down to build the product.

To keep the product development in motion, you need a seamless hand-off between different teams while allowing each of them to focus on the task at hand without losing sight of the big picture.

How a project management tool fits into Product Development

Traditional project management tools that are just an extension of an issue tracker don’t cut it. As you saw above, product development is a much larger problem than just tracking issues.

You see, issue trackers are great when you want to track, well… issues. They let you wring a list of issues together and track them. But when you want to see how micro-level updates are impacting your macro-level progress, you need to go beyond simple issue tracking.

Your product manager will want to prioritize features and spec it.

Your designer will want to make sure mockups are built and ready for the development team.

Your development and QA team will want to break down the spec’d feature into actionable subtasks and track them following agile methodologies to complete them.

Each team, irrespective of how they contribute to the product, need to concentrate on the fine implementation details while also keeping in mind the broader purposes of the product/feature as a whole. And all of this needs to happen while seamlessly collaborating cross-functionally.

Flow chart of how to streamline your product development efforts
How you can streamline your product development efforts

Most teams jump between tools for each of these needs and duct-tape their processes together. This is where inefficiencies begin to creep in and teams begin to work in silos.

With each team holed up in their own tool and worrying just about their own tasks and processes, organizations miss the forest for the trees. And customers drop off due to poor product experiences.

At the end of the day, product development is about solving your customers’ problem. With the expectations on the quality continuously rising, you need to both solve their problem and deliver exceptional experiences at every interaction they have with your product. And you need to deliver it quickly. After all, customers aren’t going to wait for months when they can easily switch to a competing product.

If you care about solving your customers’ problem and streamlining your product development process, you might be interested in below resources we’ve put together.

Further reading on Product Development

  1. The different steps in the Product Development Process
  2. The state of product development in 2020 - Report
  3. A simple development workflow to build software products and features