Product Development Life Cycle

I was formally trained in acquisition and program management as a government employee. This training has formed the foundation for my understanding of product development from initial idea to the destruction of a product. Government product acquisition focuses on defining capabilities and user needs from the field. Product creation for the market isn’t as structured, but the lessons remain valid. A wealth of information on government acquisition is available in the [Defence Acquisition Guidebook]. I combined this information with the software development process to develop an approach to product development that is not taught at DWIT. This post is about sharing this process. Please let me know what you think. Note that this is not about development methodologies like spiral, waterfall and agile. That will come in another post :)

Below are the 9 steps I teach in my program management course at DWIT

Idea Generation
This is about creating ideas and can be done individually or in small groups. The goal of this step is to create an idea base with a shallow development of each idea. We focus on quantity in this section. ALL IDEAS ARE GOOD.

Brainstorming to develop ideas
This is about providing some depth to each idea in a group of people who are committed to developing each idea. Brainstorming includes identifying both technical and non-technical solutions to the problem. This is key because it may be easier to use non-technical approaches to meeting customer needs. Brainstorming sessions have the following qualities:

  1. There is a clear goal
  2. There is a defined time limit
  3. All participants contribute
  4. One person writes and structures the session
  5. There are no bad ideas
  6. There is no hierarchy and no retribution in the session

Brainstorming session notes and photos of the whiteboard are the main documentation artefacts during the brainstorming stage.

Defining and testing the market resulting in the Business Plan
This step focuses on identifying the customer base. We scope the market with freely available statistics and tools. We then focus on customer profiles by creating numerous customer identities that we use to test the market. Interim documentation of this stage includes a marketing plan and result. The final document from this stage is a business plan.

Writing functional requirements in the Business Requirements Document (BRD)
This step focuses on identifying functional requirements of the product in a structured way. The BRD does not include any technical jargon. It is written so any person can pick it up and understand who, what, where, why and how this product is needed. Note that we do this in the next step in a technical way.

Designing the system in the Software Requirements Specification (SRS)
This step focuses on identifying the software and system requirements. The SRS is a technical document for IT people so they can deliver the capability requested in the BRD. Each technical requirement in the SRS is linked to a functional requirement sin the BRD.

Build the system
Finally, we get to building the system that we scoped and received approval from in the BRD and SRS.

Deploy the system
Once we build it, there is a day where the system is deployed. This is a fleeting moment because the second you deploy, the second your maintenance begins. Never forget that the deployment is the first step in the real world. “It’s like buying a car. The purchase price is only the beginning.” (This quote came from my uncle Steve.)

Maintain the system
Numerous things go into maintenance. The goal here is to keep the system running smoothly and ensure the customer has a good experience.

Gracefully destroy or retire the system
This step focuses on clearly destroying or retiring the system. Apple just retired the Ipod Classic. There are millions of these devices still in the market. This step focuses on ensuring the continued support and eventual decline of discontinued systems until they are no longer feasible to support. We can’t just stop making products and expect the products in the market will immediately become obsolete.

As I said earlier, this is a work in progress. Please share your thoughts.

Contact me if you'd like to talk about this post.