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18/100 - Navigating the Stages of Product Development: A Guide to PDLC



What is the Product development life cycle?


Product development life cycle is a sequence that all products undergo in order to be brought to market. The cycle has five main phases- ideation, product discovery, product development, product launch and growth. Each phase is important in its own way, and all products must go through them in order to be successful.


In the previous article we looked at 'what are design sprints?'. In this article, we will explore each phase in detail and give examples of how they are used in the software product development life cycle through below sections:

1. Ideation Phase


The ideation phase is the very beginning of the product development life cycle. This is when you come up with your initial idea and begin to plan out the product. It's important to have a clear vision and a solid plan in this phase, as it will set the tone for the rest of the cycle. You need to make sure that your idea is feasible and that there is a market for it. If you can't answer these questions satisfactorily, it's best to move on to another idea.


The ideation phase is all about brainstorming and coming up with as many ideas as possible. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and consider unlikely possibilities. Once you have a good list of ideas, you can start to narrow them down and decide which one is best for your product.


The ideation phase is an important part of the product development life cycle, but it's not always easy. You need to be creative and flexible in order to come up with a good idea that will work for your product.



2. Product Discovery Phase


The product discovery phase is where you take your idea and turn it into a reality. This is when you start to develop the product and determine what it will look like and how it will work. You'll also need to figure out the specifications and how to make it. This is a critical phase, as it will determine the success or failure of your product. If you make any mistakes here, it can be very difficult to correct them later on.


The product discovery phase is all about research. You need to do as much research as possible to make sure that your product is viable. This includes market research, competitor research and technology research. You need to know everything there is to know about your product before you start developing it.


The product discovery phase can be difficult, but it's essential for success. You need to be diligent and meticulous in order to create a successful product. There's a lot at stake in this phase, so don't take shortcuts.



3. Product Development Phase


The product development phase is the stage in the product development life cycle (PDLC) where a new product or service is designed and developed. This phase typically follows the idea generation and concept development phases, during which potential ideas for new products are identified and refined.


During the product development phase, the product team works to define the functional and technical requirements for the new product or service. This may involve conducting market research and gathering input from potential customers to understand their needs and preferences. The team may also engage in activities such as prototyping and user testing to explore and validate different design concepts.


Once the product requirements have been defined, the team moves into the development phase, where the product is actually built. This may involve a range of activities, such as writing code, designing and building hardware, or creating marketing and sales materials. The development phase may also involve iterative testing and refinement of the product, to ensure that it meets the requirements and provides value to customers.


The product development phase is a critical stage in the PDLC, as it is where the new product or service is designed and developed. By defining the product requirements and conducting user research, the team can ensure that the product is tailored to the needs and preferences of its target customers. This can increase the chances of success for the product and help the team to avoid costly mistakes.



4. Product Launch Phase


The product launch phase is the final stage in the product development life cycle, during which the new product or service is made available to customers. This may involve launching a new website or app, releasing a new product line to retailers, or hosting a launch event to promote the new offering.


In order to ensure a successful launch, it is important to plan and execute a well-thought-out marketing and sales strategy. This may include developing promotional materials such as videos, social media posts, and website banners. The team may also need to create sales collateral such as Product Fact Sheets or Case Studies. Additionally, it is important to identify and track key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of the launch.


A successful product launch can help to generate buzz and excitement around the new product or service, which can lead to increased sales and market share. By planning and executing a well-thought-out marketing and sales strategy, the team can maximize the chances of a successful launch.



5. Growth Phase


During this phase, the product or service has been successfully introduced to the market and is starting to gain traction. The goal of the growth phase is to continue to build on this initial success and drive the product or service towards long-term sustainability and growth.


In the growth phase, the product team may focus on a range of activities to support the continued growth of the product or service. These may include efforts to increase customer awareness and engagement, such as through marketing and sales activities, as well as efforts to improve the product itself, such as through iterative updates and enhancements.


The growth phase may also involve expanding the product's distribution and reach, for example by entering new markets or partnering with other organizations to reach new customers. Additionally, the team may focus on identifying new revenue streams and growth opportunities, such as by developing complementary products or services.


The growth phase is a critical stage in the PDLC, as it is where the product or service is established in the market and starts to build a loyal customer base. By focusing on activities such as marketing, product development, and expansion, the team can help to drive the product or service towards long-term growth and sustainability.


PDLC for a SaaS Product


Here's how the Product Development Life Cycle might look for a SaaS product development project:


Ideation

In this stage, the team is focused on generating ideas and exploring the potential for a new SaaS product. They might research existing products and analyze the market to identify opportunities for new solutions. The team might also gather input from stakeholders and potential customers to determine what kind of SaaS product would be most valuable.


Product Discovery

In this stage, the team refines their SaaS product concept and determines its feasibility. They might build prototypes, conduct user testing, and gather feedback from stakeholders. They also develop a deeper understanding of the product's requirements and technical architecture.


Product Development

In this stage, the team focuses on actually building the SaaS product. They use agile development methodologies to iteratively build, test, and refine the product. They also ensure that the product is secure, scalable, and meets all technical and user requirements.

Product Launch

In this stage, the SaaS product is released to the market and made available to customers. The team might conduct marketing and outreach activities to build awareness and attract customers. They also provide ongoing customer support and continue to improve the product based on customer feedback.


Growth

In this stage, the focus is on scaling the SaaS product and growing its customer base. The team might explore opportunities for adding new features or expanding into new markets. They also gather customer feedback and analyze usage data to identify areas for improvement.


Throughout the PDLC process, the product development team must balance competing priorities and manage multiple stakeholders. They must also be agile and responsive to changing requirements and market conditions in order to bring the SaaS product to market successfully.


Here's a table summarizing the product development life cycle

Stage

Ideation

Product Discovery

Product Development

Product Launch

Growth

Behavior

Brainstorming, market research, feasibility analysis

Prototyping, user testing, stakeholder feedback

Agile development, testing, quality assurance

Product marketing, customer support, improvement

Market expansion, differentiation, customer acquisition

Inputs

Customer needs, market trends, competitive analysis

Prototypes, market research, customer feedback

Product requirements, design specs, development plans

Market research, customer feedback, sales data

Sales data, customer feedback, market trends

Activities

Developing product concepts, defining target markets, viability analysis

Refining concept, defining requirements, identifying challenges

Designing, building, testing, preparing for launch

Promoting, providing customer support, improving

Expanding markets, developing new features, acquiring customers

Priorities

Generating ideas, evaluating concept potential

Determining feasibility and value of concept

Ensuring quality, meeting deadlines, staying within budget

Generating revenue, building brand awareness, positive customer experience

Growing revenue, expanding market share, increasing customer loyalty

Resources

Market research data, subject matter experts, cross-functional teams

Cross-functional teams, product managers, user researchers

Development teams, designers, testers, project managers

Product managers, marketing teams, customer support, data analysts

Sales teams, marketing teams, product management


Product Life Cycle Vs Product Development Life Cycle

The Product Life Cycle (PLC) and the Product Development Life Cycle (PDLC) are related but distinct concepts.


Product Life Cycle (PLC)

This is a framework for understanding the stages a product goes through from its inception to its eventual decline. The stages of the PLC are: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. In each stage, the product faces different challenges and opportunities, and requires different marketing strategies. The PLC helps companies understand the evolution of their products and make informed decisions about product development, marketing, and portfolio management. (We will look at this later in Planning domain set of blogs).


Product Development Life Cycle (PDLC)

This is a framework for managing the development of new products. It covers the entire process of product development, from ideation to launch and growth. The PDLC helps companies manage the complex and often challenging process of bringing a new product to market, by defining the steps, processes, and best practices to follow. The PDLC helps companies ensure that their new products are developed efficiently, effectively, and in a way that meets customer needs and market demands.


In summary, the Product Life Cycle focuses on the evolution of a product over time, while the Product Development Life Cycle focuses on the process of developing a new product from ideation to market launch.


Recommended Readings

  • A short video from EmbarkX, 'What is PDLC?'


Coming up in the next blog - 'What is Product Roadmapping'.

Note 1: This blog is part of a 100 Days of Learning Series on Web3 Project Management frameworks and best practices published on Program Strategy HQ. For more details on the 100 days of blogging campaign check out Blog 0.


Note 2: Reach out to info@programstrategyhq for any queries.


Note 3: Program Strategy HQ Disclaimer for Reference.


References

  • References Asana. (2021, September 17). Product Development Process: 6 Stages (With Examples) • Asana. Asana. https://asana.com/resources/product-development-process

  • Kopp, C. (2022, August 9). Understanding Product Life Cycles. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/product-life-cycle.asp

  • Product Development Cycle. (n.d.). Www.productplan.com. https://www.productplan.com/glossary/product-development-cycle/SoftwareEngineering | Program Development Life Cycle (PDLC) -

  • GeeksforGeeks. (2018, November 2). GeeksforGeeks. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/software-engineering-program-development-life-cycle-pdlc


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