How do you get the best product around? It could be as simple as looking at a kitchen's model.

April 19, 2013

4 Min Read
Five Steps to Perfect Product Development

By Don Biszek, Senior Program Manager, Stratos

The pinnacle of the culinary world is to gain Michelin-star status for your restaurant. How can you – in the product development world – reach that same elite status?

Developing a new product is a complex endeavor for everyone involved. Stakeholders – the extended team of managers, executive management, board members, and product managers – have a challenging role, balancing involvement to ensure the project is on track and meets the expectations of company executives, the board, and customers. They do this while juggling other crucial management responsibilities. So what is the most effective and efficient way for stakeholders to be involved on a project while achieving the desired results?

The old axiom, “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth…” also applies when developing a product. In this situation, a stakeholder is not unlike an executive chef who provides the vision and the master recipe to their culinary team so they can produce a crowd-pleasing meal. The goal is to get to the point where you can get out of the kitchen and provide guidance and trust to your team, freeing you up to focus on other critical responsibilities.

These five steps will provide stakeholders a voice throughout product development while empowering the core team with the information they need, thus ensuring that the overall goals and vision for the product are achieved.

The five-step plan for balanced stakeholder involvement is:

1.Establish project goals.
2.Define product requirements.
3.Define a project plan.
4.Establish a tempo for checking in and providing input.
5.Review progress.

1.Establish Project Goals

The first step is to define clear goals for the project. These goals should reflect the voice of all of the extended team and be used to guide all critical decisions on a project. Once the goals are defined it is very important to communicate these goals to the project team. Make sure the goals are clearly defined and get buy-in from everyone first. Organizations with mature project management practices will often use a project charter to document and communicate project goals.

2.Define Requirements

Too many product development efforts are behind schedule before they even kick off. In the race to get to the end goal, product development is launched without having clearly defined product requirements. Don’t allow yourself to be convinced that this will save time. Insist that all stakeholders and the team spend the time upfront to ensure there are clear product requirements before development begins. A solid product requirements document is part of the balanced menu for the team to execute and can eliminate differences in expectations down the road.

3.Define a Project Plan

Once the project goals and product requirements are established, it is time to plan the project. A project plan should include details on project execution, including product development approach, a detailed schedule, responsibilities, tasks and deliverables, and resource needs.

4.Establish a tempo for checking in and providing Input

Once a project charter, project plan, and product requirements have been established, a clear path allows the team to be off and running while also allowing the extended team to step back and focus on other critical responsibilities. How often should the extended team and stakeholders check in on a project during product development? Either too frequent or too sporadic involvement can impede progress. Frequent involvement is often a result of lack of confidence in the direction the team is taking. So what are the key points on a project? Work together as a team to define critical reviews and gates on a project specifically for stakeholder participation and document these in the project plan. Also include time to incorporate changes from the reviews into the schedule. Discuss the impact of recommended changes with the entire team and prioritize feedback to fit within this timeline (or adjust the plan).

Determine what documents require extended team review. Take care to time this review so the feedback is provided at a meaningful time, minimizing impact on project schedule and rework.

5.Review Progress

Establish a status reporting process. Status reports should be kept to one page and distributed weekly to the extended team to keep them apprised of critical issues and team progress against the established goals and project plan. This process provides stakeholders with a snapshot of the project while minimizing involvement on a week-by-week basis.


Stakeholder involvement is critical throughout the development process, but it’s important to know how and when to empower your team to do the work. World-renowned executive chefs could never create five-star meals without an outstanding team to execute their culinary talents. Use the above tips to coach your teams to Michelin-starred success and streamline your product development efforts.

Don Biszek is a project manager at Stratos Product Development. Don has over 20 years of product development experience in a wide variety of industries ranging from aerospace, medical devices, telecommunications, internet search and advertising, and streaming media. His project management strengths include a strong commitment to on-time and on-budget delivery by close collaboration with teams to fully define requirements and mitigate risk early in the project.

Related Content:

From Idea to Product Development in Four Steps

Five Factors to Success in Product Development

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