The product development process is a six-stage plan that involves taking a product from initial concept to final market launch. This process helps break down tasks and organize cross-departmental collaboration. Find out how to implement a process of your own.
Product development is both an exciting and difficult endeavor. From initial ideation to research and prototyping, no two product launches are the same. However, there’s a general process that can help you get started with the product development process.
The product development process describes the six steps needed to take a product from initial concept to final market launch. This includes identifying a market need, researching the competition, ideating a solution, developing a product roadmap, and building a minimum viable product (MVP).
The product development process has evolved in recent years and is now commonly used by dividing each step into six separate phases. This helps better organize the process and break individual deliverables into smaller tasks.
What is product development?
Product development is the process of building a new product, from ideation all the way through launch. Product development begins with those initial brainstorming sessions, when you’re just discussing a budding idea. From there, the process is creative but strategic, and you may have seen it done in a million different ways. But without clear organization, it can be hard to mesh creativity and strategy effectively. Which is where the product development process comes in—a six step framework to help you standardize and define your work.Create a product development template
Is product development the same as product management?
Though they sound almost identical, there's an important difference between product development and product management. Product development describes the process of building a product, where product management is the overseeing of that work. It's a slight difference, but an important distinction. A product manager, who often oversees a team that is in the product development process, will lead product management.Free product roadmap template
The 6 stages of product development
Not only does the product development process help simplify a launch, but it also encourages cross-team collaboration with teamwork and communication at the forefront of the process.
Let’s dive into the product life cycle and define the six product phases. All of which can help you successfully launch your next product.
1. Idea generation (Ideation)
The initial stage of the product development process begins by generating new product ideas. This is the product innovation stage, where you brainstorm product concepts based on customer needs, concept testing, and market research.
It’s a good idea to consider the following factors when initiating a new product concept:
To validate a product concept, consider documenting ideas in the form of a business case. This will allow all team members to have a clear understanding of the initial product features and the objectives of the new product launch.
2. Product definition
Once you’ve completed the business case and discussed your target market and product functionality, it’s time to define the product. This is also referred to as scoping or concept development, and focuses on refining the product strategy.
During this stage, it’s important to define specifics including:
Once these ideas have been defined, it’s time to begin building your minimum viable product (MVP) with initial prototyping.
During the prototyping stage, your team will intensively research and document the product by creating a more detailed business plan and constructing the product.
These early-stage prototypes might be as simple as a drawing or a more complex computer render of the initial design. These prototypes help you identify areas of risk before you create the product.
During the prototyping phase, you will work on specifics like:
Now it’s time to begin designing the product for market launch.Read: Stage Gate process: How to prevent project riskCreate a product development template
4. Initial design
During the initial design phase, project stakeholders work together to produce a mockup of the product based on the MVP prototype. The design should be created with the target audience in mind and complement the key functions of your product.
A successful product design may take several iterations to get just right, and may involve communicating with distributors in order to source necessary materials.
To produce the initial design, you will:
Once the design is approved and ready to be handed off, move onto the validation phase for final testing before launching the product.
5. Validation and testing
To go live with a new product, you first need to validate and test it. This ensures that every part of the product—from development to marketing—is working effectively before it’s released to the public.
To ensure the quality of your product, complete the following:
Once your initial testing is complete, you’re ready to begin producing the final product concept and launch it to your customer base.
Now it’s time to commercialize your concept, which involves launching your product and implementing it on your website.
By now, you’ve finalized the design and quality tested your development and marketing strategy. You should feel confident in your final iteration and be ready to produce your final product.
In this stage you should be working on:
Your final product is now launched. All that’s left is to measure success with the initial success metrics you landed on.Free product launch template
Product development process examples
Now that you understand the six stages of the product life cycle, let’s look at real world examples of some of the most successful product development strategies of iconic startups to inspire your own.
Example 1: How Figma expanded their product features
Their mission is to make design accessible to more people and help them bring their creativity to life. They’ve shown this by continuously adding new product features—like multiple flow capabilities, a brainstorming timer, and an interactive whiteboard—coordinating successful software releases, and building trust through transparency.
Read our case study to learn how Figma uses Asana to manage development backlogs.
Example 2: How Uber solved a market gap
Uber’s strategy began by solving a gap in the existing taxi industry: creating an easier ride-hailing process with simplified payment processing. But they didn’t stop there: they continued to innovate their product portfolio by developing ride tiers ranging from luxury to budget-friendly.
While each situation varies slightly, with the right product strategy, you too can create an innovative portfolio.
Who is part of the product development team?
There are many stakeholders and various teams that assist with the product development process. The main leader is the product manager, who oversees all product tasks related to ideation, research, development, and product launch.
Additional important stakeholders include:
In addition to these important roles, other teams that may be involved are finance, engineering, and any other related stakeholders. All of which can play a role in the process depending on the complexity of the concept.Read: Product manager vs. project manager: What’s the difference?
The process that simplifies product development
The right product development process can help you streamline each step with organized tasks and team collaboration. The six stages outlined above will get your team through all steps of the process, from initial idea screening to the development phase.
But you might need help along the way. Coordinate tasks and organize your product development process with Asana for product management. Asana can help get your products to market faster by tracking workload and simplifying planning.Create a product development template