So you have a great idea for a new product based on your proprietary technology and you think it will be the best thing since sliced bread—but are you really ready to start product development?What technical things do you need to understand before you enter the product development process? After all, starting product development too early can be a waste of time and money as the team spins its wheels while additional information comes in. However, starting too late could mean that you miss the market opportunity for your novel product. So how do you know?

January 18, 2013

3 Min Read
From Idea to Product Development in Four Steps

1.Understand the limits of your process or technology.

If you want to develop a whole new product, you must fully understand your technology. Do you have a prototype that works? Can you perform a simulated use case on the prototype? During product development, the idealized, bench top technology will need to be twisted and squashed, simplified and measured to make it into the product your customers will want to buy – do you know the limits? If not, you are not ready for product development. Run bench top experiments until you have a good feeling for the limits of the technology and where it can be adjusted to meet product limitations.

2.Know the bounds of your IP.

Do you have your IP locked up? Have you done an IP search to see what your competitors have made off limits or implementation areas that you need to stay away from? Understanding the boundaries of the space you can develop in will prevent pricey project resets and wasted exploratory efforts. Instead, you will be able to focus the development team on developing the product in a “safe” space.

3.Study your end users and know what they want.

Identifying your users, what they need and what they respond to is vital information to feed into product development. Understanding the environment that your product will be used in, as well as the expectations and limitations of the people who will use it, will help inform important product architecture and design decisions. Identifying the additional needs of special users (for example, Laboratory IT specialists for an IVD) will further inform design decisions and streamline the development process. Ideally, a sample of end users will be available throughout product development for quick surveys and longer studies to make sure the product stays on the right track.

4.Understand pricing and COGs limitations with respect to the value proposition to your customers.

Product development is riddled with decision points and trade-offs between the product feature set, product and development costs, and time-to-market considerations. A thorough understanding of your product’s value proposition to your customers will allow you to make those trade-offs in a way that ensures the end product is the right product for your customers.

Of course, there are a lot of business steps to climb before you are really able to start – development team skills, competitive landscape, product fit, distribution models, etc. – but if you were able to meet the four criteria, then you are at least ready to start the technical journey.

Do you have more steps? Tell me about them in the comments.


Malinda Elien is a project manager at Stratos Product Development. She has 14 years of experience in product development, project management and mechanical engineering. Elien previously worked for Microscan Systems designing optical scanning systems for medical environments. She has a SB and SM in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

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