What's Product Development? (Definition and Stages)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Product development essentially refers to all stages of a product's life cycle, from conceptualisation to market release. The development process incorporates many stages that have varying purposes, such as identifying risk, allocating resources and validating performance potential. Understanding how to allocate responsibilities throughout a product's development can ensure the development process is efficient and effective. In this article, we define product development, outline the typical development stages and provide a guide on how to allocate responsibilities during a product's development cycle.

What's product development?

Product development is a combination of stages and strategies that help create, manage and monitor a product during its life-cycle. You might define a product's development as the processes involved in its entire life-cycle. It's sometimes a misconception that a product's development refers to the management of the development process. While it does involve management duties, many professions and responsibilities contribute to the development stages. For example, throughout a product's life cycle, it may have contributions from managers, marketers, user interface designers, quality assurance testers, design engineers and project accountants.

Related: How to Become a Product Manager (Full Guide With Steps)

8 typical stages of developing a product

Here, you can examine the typical stages involved in developing a product:

1. Identifying a product's purpose

The first step in a product's development cycle is usually to identify the reason for a product. This reason might refer to an issue that requires a solution or a process that can improve through an innovative product. For example, an engineering firm may identify a resource extraction process that can improve by introducing a new product. The product's purpose is to improve efficiency. Identifying the product's purpose is usually the first step in the development process because it provides the framework and a broad goal of what the product is trying to achieve.

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2. Validating the purpose

After identifying a product's purpose, the next step is usually to validate that purpose. A product may solve an issue or improve a process, but the solution or improvement might not warrant a product's development. There are several reasons a solution or improvement might be un-viable. For example, a software engineering company identifies an issue affecting user interface designers. They have the capability to develop a product solution, but the issue only affects user interface designers in an extremely niche market. They deem the solution to the issue unviable because the development cost may exceed potential revenue.

Related: What Is a Feasibility Study? (With Definition and Tips)

3. Conceptualising the product

If an organisation validates the product's purpose, it may begin conceptualising the product. This refers to designing a product that can achieve its purpose. For example, a software engineering company deems a product solution can improve artificial intelligence (AI) data gathering capabilities. They validate the solution as it has the potential to generate substantial revenue. The product's development team begins designing a software solution to improve AI. They conceptualise software that provides AI with the ability to contextualise information. This drastically improves the accuracy and relevancy of the data AI platforms collect.

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4. Validating the product

Once the design team conceptualises the product, the organisation usually validates the product. Similar to validating the product's purpose, the organisation validates the product's design viability. Several factors may influence the product's viability, such as its required resources, production time, expected revenue and practicality. Using the above example, the software engineering firm deems the AI software solution viable. The firm reviews its workforce capabilities and determines it has the expertise to develop the software. They also review the potential demand for the software and identify a large return on investment (ROI), making the product a viable development.

Related: What Is ROI and How to Calculate It (With Examples)

5. Planning the production process

After validating the product's design, the development team can begin planning the production processes. The production plan typically comprises many components, from resource requirements to projected deadlines. It essentially provides a blueprint for the production process. The planning process is often crucial for a product's development, as it provides production teams with a framework of scheduled activities to complete. These activities can help a production team produce the product within a scheduled timeframe while ensuring the product's quality.

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6. Executing the production process

The production plan typically requires validation from an organisation's executives and senior management positions. After the validation, a product's development team can begin the production plan. Many individuals with varying responsibilities may contribute to the product's creation. A manager typically allocates these responsibilities to ensure an efficient production process. They may consider dependencies, timelines and resources to identify a logical and effective work schedule. During the execution of the production process, managers typically monitor the production project's performance. They may review the current expenditure, production progress and consumed resources to ensure the project conforms to the plan.

7. Releasing the product to the market

Once a development team has a finalised product, they may release it to the market. The market release stage involves varying departments, including sales and marketing. Depending on the product, an organisation might launch marketing campaigns to generate hype for the product and ensure sales on its launch day. The organisation typically forecasts expected sales by identifying the potential demand for the product. Employee training may also be a required step in the market release stage. Customer support and sales employees typically require training for the product to ensure they can provide accurate information and helpful solutions to customers.

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8. Monitoring the product's performance

After a product's release, the organisation usually monitors its performance. This usually involves analysing key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are usually quantifiable metrics that help an organisation determine an activity's or product's performance. After a product release, an organisation may analyse an abundance of KPIs, such as monthly recurring revenue (MRR), average revenue per user (ARPU) and customer lifetime value (CLTV). These KPIs can help an organisation identify the strengths and weaknesses of a product. This can highlight necessary steps for improving the product's performance, such as altering product features, improving production processes or changing marketing strategies.

Related: What Is a Performance Indicator? (And How to Create One)

How to allocate product developing responsibilities

Here, you can explore several steps on how to allocate a product's development responsibilities:

1. Review the product's complexity

Some products can involve an abundance of responsibilities that require varying specialist roles. An organisation might not currently employ these roles or its workforce might not have the skills to conduct the responsibilities. By reviewing the product's complexity, you can identify the skill gaps in the workforce. This might outline the potential for recruitment requirements or additional training and development programs. Ensuring the workforce has the capability to develop the product can be crucial to ensuring the product's success.

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2. Consider team members' skills and experience

When allocating development responsibilities, it can be an excellent idea to consider the skills and experience of the team members. This can help you identify the individuals most suited for a responsibility. For example, the organisation may have several project managers suitable for the product's production phase. You can analyse their skills and experience and cross-reference them with the product's development complexity. You might discover that an inexperienced project manager may be suitable for the development process, allowing the more experienced managers to work on more complex developments.

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3. Clearly define responsibilities

When allocating development responsibilities, it's usually important to clearly define them. A product's development cycle typically involves an abundance of responsibilities, some of which may be similar or intersect with other responsibilities. For example, managing the development budget may involve similar duties to managing development progression. If you clearly define the responsibilities and outline every specific duty, you can gain an accurate insight into the number and type of team members the product requires. Defining responsibilities can also improve communication, collaboration and productivity during the development phase because each team member understands their role in the process.

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4. Monitor individual performance

After you allocate responsibilities to team members, it can be important to review their performance. This can give you an accurate insight into their ability to conduct their duties. Depending on their responsibility, there are usually several individual KPIs you can monitor to determine their performance. If you discover a team member is underperforming, you can reallocate their duties to someone else or implement a training and development program to improve their performance.

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