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A Snapshot on Technology-based Product Development

Product development is a vast area of research and is constantly evolving. There are so many different kinds of products ranging from plastic goods and electronic items to mobile apps, with every core field having its own ideation style, research & development. But one thing is for sure they go through the ups & downs of the product lifecycle and with no constant innovation can lead to its death.

Product lifecycle stages

Product Lifecycle


Once the company launches a product, it majorly goes through the following stages (ref. Image 1);


Stage 1: Introduction


The stage where the company introduces 'the product' to the market with almost no competition. There will be early adopters who will risk buying the product. Further, the company typically loses money on marketing and maintenance as sales or adoption by customers is quite low.


A few of the companies that look like to be in the introduction stage are Country Delight & Ditto Insurance. Below you can observe the trend line of discovering products of country delight in Google trends, which showcases its gradual adaptation.

Google trend of country delight

Stage 2: Growth


The product has started gaining traction in the market with consumer acceptance. The sales started to rise with the company iterating & improving the product, probably taking cues from the early adopters. Few competitors come to the scene while valuing the growth of the product. The recent boom of Snapchat in India is an example of it.


Stage 3: Maturity


The sale of the product has reached its pinnacle with growth getting plateau. As more competitors enter the market, the company finds it difficult to sustain. The company can move towards constant innovation to be relevant or gradually phase out the product.


A famous product that is showing this trend is Twitter. Its growth looks to be plateaued for the past few years and the company is struggling to find new means of generating revenue. No comments post-Elon Musk takeover, zippp!


Twitter monthly active users

Stage 4: Decline


The stage where the company reaches its saturation point and the sales begin to diminish. The product is gradually phased out of the market and is deemed old or irrelevant.

Yahoo! is a good example of a company in decline and most of its products are obsolete or phased out; Affirmed by the trend line below as well.

Google trend of yahoo decline

When the company intends to kill the product in a phased manner it's famously termed "sunsetting".

The answer to sunsetting lies in secondary resource management, cause why a company like Google would willingly discontinue its products? Reason: The multiple departments in an organization like support, legal, security, etc contribute to indirect costs in maintaining a service that attracts any amount of traffic. Some famous sunsetting are Google Reader, Orkut, MSN TV by Microsoft, Google Glass, and Almost all products of Yahoo!


Google Trends is a very handy tool to check out the current & past buzz that's ringing in the market for that company or product.


Product Development Process


The product development process is generally more or less the same for almost all the available products in the market be it a Uber app, an iPhone, or a Mercedes. It's more academic in nature and in the real-world creators use their own set of language to define these phases but broadly they are categorized into 7 phases;


1. Conceive

  • User Problem

  • Brainstorm solutions

  • Ideas

2. Plan

  • Market research

  • Customer interviews

  • Roadmapping

3. Develop

  • Timeline

  • Features

  • User Stories & Specifications

  • Estimations & Requirements

4. Iterate

  • Prototype

  • MVP - Minimum Viable Product

  • Assumptions Testing

  • Versions

5. Launch

  • Marketing/Legal/PR/Sales Team

  • Public Launch

  • User Reaction

6. Steady State

  • Collecting metrics

  • Optimizing

  • Sales

7. Maintain or Kill

  • Data Analysis

  • RoI - Return on Investment

  • Vision Alignment

  • if decided - Sunsetting

Each of the above tasks in itself is a long drawn-out work with various styles & tools utilized based on the specific industries to accomplish the goal.

There is an interesting article by Scott D. Anthony written for the Harvard Business Review titled "How to Market Test a New Idea". I have boiled down the salient point, which quite impressively defines the way tests should be conducted;

  1. By properly designing experiments

    1. Formulate hypothesis

    2. Specify objectives

    3. Make prediction

    4. Execute & Analyze

  2. Involve a dispassionate outsider

  3. Avoid considering an idea in isolation

  4. Constraint forcing a decision (For e.g. time constraint)


A bunch of hanging lights

After successfully testing the products and being sure of your idea, the next critical phase is the product launch. Here, I have segregated 8 elements of a robust product launch by Niel Patel (Co-founder of Kissmetrics & Crazy Egg), which rightly touches on all the important aspects of a product launch;

  1. Figure out the right product first

  2. Test all your assumptions about the market

  3. Acquire customers before you have any customers

  4. Gain customer feedback before there are any real customers

  5. Dont build out features, just build the product

  6. Test your plan before you officially launch it

  7. Practice your launch

  8. Expect things to go wrong

  9. Launch, then pivot.

If you intend to have a detailed understanding of each step, please go through the article here.


Lean Product Development


Lean Framework 'or' Mindset


The lean framework is a product development philosophy that emphasizes eliminating unnecessary work or effort, focusing only on what is truly essential.


For example, If you intend to create a food delivery app like Zomato; Traditionally, you would hire drivers, purchase a dedicated phone number, and develop the entire app from scratch. However, the lean approach involves starting with limited resources and doing everything initially by yourself, aiming to achieve significant progress with minimal expenditure. Being lean means refraining from building anything until you have confirmed there is genuine interest in it.


If you are interested to delve deep into this topic then it's advisable to study more about the concept of "Lean Startup" by Eric Ries, a bible for tech startups & entrepreneurs.

Further, you can read my article "Points to ponder on developing a Lean Startup (Notes from Eric Ries Book)" to get distilled notes on the concept of lean startup.

Agile Framework


Agile is an application of the lean mindset specifically tailored for software development.


Within the Agile framework, tasks are organized into small batches and completed one by one to avoid waste of resources. For instance, rather than developing all the features of a product, Agile focuses on researching and prioritizing the most important 2-3 features.


Visulaization of Agile methodologies

You can find the agile manifesto here with its 12 principles & signatories.


There are two famous Agile development frameworks - Scrum & Kanban.

Scrum Framework


The scrum framework is currently the most famous and extensively used methodology which has the following 4 major parts;


Sprint Planning

  • You select the most crucial features from the top of your product backlog and transfer them to the sprint backlog.

  • You discuss the necessary steps to implement these features.

  • You input the work into project management software and create tickets to track and manage the tasks.

Scrum framework from scrum org

Product Development

  • A sprint typically has a duration of two weeks.

  • Your team focuses on the tickets by selecting them from the top of the sprint backlog and progressing them to the "In progress" and eventually "Done" status.

  • By the end of the two weeks, the aim is to complete all the items in the sprint backlog.

Daily Standups

  • Daily meetings are conducted in the mornings.

  • The meetings are conducted in a standing position to keep them short and focused.

  • Each team member provides a summary of their work during the meeting.

Retrospective Meetings

  • At the conclusion of each sprint, you gather with your team for a retrospective meeting.

  • During the meeting, three key areas are discussed: the previous sprint, highlighting both successful aspects and areas for improvement and addressing any questions raised by team members.


Kanban Framework


A Kanban is like a board consisting of columns with cards that can be moved between columns to represent the item's status: "To do," "In progress," or "Done."


Unlike Scrum, Kanban does not use sprints. There is no sprint backlog, only the product backlog itself. The team works on their ticket, moves it to "Done," and then selects the next task from the top of the product backlog. It is up to the team to decide how many items can be in each state.


a kanban board

Kanban is more flexible compared to Scrum when it comes to meetings and time constraints.

It does not prescribe specific meeting types. But it can be challenging to estimate the time required to develop items.


Waterfall Framework


The waterfall framework is straightforward, all the features of a product are developed simultaneously. Traditionally software used to be developed in this manner. The Waterfall framework stands in contrast to the Agile framework. Following the Waterfall approach carries greater risks. It becomes significantly more challenging to incorporate market feedback and adapt once everything has already been built.

waterfall process

A real-life example of Agile & waterfall use case

For Agile

Example: Creating a music playlist in a music app

  • Everyone on the team gets together and decides on core features

  • Developers create the database, product managers create wireframes

  • Implementing basic functionality with everyone is in close communication and collaboration

For Waterfall

Examples

  • Operating systems i.e Windows, MacOS, or Android - that can't operate only with a few features

  • Building skyscrapers


The End

****************


Source

Image 1: Product lifecycle stage, Image Designed by Raj Khandelwal

Image 2: Google trend of country delight by Raj Khandelwal

Image 3: Twitter monthly active users, Statista

Image 4: Google trend of Yahoo decline by Raj Khandelwal

Image 5: A bunch of hanging lights from Unsplash

Image 8: By Jennifer Falco - Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=132117320


Reference

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