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Product Management

Understanding the Product Development Life Cycle

Product Development Life Cycle: Stages, Management, and Best Practices

Dmytro LokshynDmytro Lokshyn
February 6, 2024
Image illustrating a life cycle with a contemporary design*source

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

·      Product development involves generating an idea for a project and creating it for release.

·      Product lifecycle is broken down into two stages: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.

·      Strategies such as pricing or regular revisions need to be implemented to maintain a smooth product lifecycle.

·      Each product goes through certain development stages, which involve research and marketing.

·      Software products, while similar, have a few differences when it comes to release.

·      Using tools to streamline the process can prevent delays during the production stage.

Understanding the Product Development Life Cycle

As a business owner, your goal is to ensure your product remains on the market for as long as possible. For that to happen, you must comprehend how your product behaves and how end users interact with it. By understanding the product development lifecycle, you can know where to place your focus so that you can manage your business effectively.

The Essence of Product Development Lifecycle

At the start of the product lifecycle, there is a development stage where the idea of the product itself is generated and tested. This stage can be broken down into different sections, depending on the industry and the nature of the item. Generally, here are the product development lifecycle stages you must go through:

·      Idea Generation

First things first, every product starts with an idea. Here, the development team will begin brainstorming and pitching ideas, weighing their pros and cons. For instance, they may want to create something new that can solve a customer’s needs in a manner never presented before. Things such as market research and production costs could be tapped into at this stage, but for the most part, this phase deals with the concept of the product itself.

·      Market Research

Now that you know what you want to sell, you must determine whom to sell it to. At this point, the development team must figure out the target audience. You can begin with some assumptions and then incorporate concept testing, pitching it to a test audience. Afterward, you can gather feedback on whether this product would be helpful or not. This step is essential before you start making the items, ensuring you have a market to sell them to.

·      Product Planning

Once you know you would have interested buyers, it is time to assemble a roadmap. Here, you may want to think of what product strategy frameworks work best for you. You should create a reliable team at this point, involving everyone from stakeholders to developers and marketing groups. Each team should weigh the product’s potential and create the best strategy to streamline the process.

·      Prototyping

With everyone agreeing on the plan, it is time to create your prototype. This can be expensive, especially as you don’t have a buyer yet, but it is essential for evaluating and improving the product. During this test, you will also have to do plenty of testing and quality assurance so that the final product meets the end user’s expectations. A good idea would be to create a Beta version that users could also test out, offering you real-time feedback as to what you should work to improve.

·      Sourcing

With the prototype ready, the next part of the development lifecycle stages involves sourcing. Your team needs to think about how you plan to deliver your creation to your target audience. Consider the raw materials you’ll need to create your line, vendors to buy from, shipping, and other resources you might need. Depending on how many products you want to provide, you should consider warehousing and delivery methods once ordered.

·      Cost Estimation

You have an average plan to reach your market, but now you need to find out how much it will cost. Consider everything from raw materials to labor, equipment, and shipping. Once you have an average cost of goods sold before you, it is time to choose a pricing strategy that works for you. For instance, many prefer competitive pricing to gain market advantage, but cost-plus pricing strategies can help bring profit if you are already well-known in the industry.

·      Product Commercialization

Last but not least, the development cycle of your release culminates in its introduction to the market. Everything is produced on a scale, and you may have it shipped directly or through an e-commerce store. This is where your marketing strategy takes flight and fully launches you into the product lifecycle. At this point, you will gain plenty of opportunities to improve your released item or service, along with your market outreach.

The Four Pillars of the Product Lifecycle

The lifecycle stages of a product can be significantly different depending on the category or industry. With that in mind, what are the four stages in the product life cycle, to be more precise? Things may vary, but these product phases never seem to go through any changes.

1.    Introduction Stage

The introduction stage is when a company launches a new product. Products in the introduction stageoften depend on the advertising, as you must promote the release across different markets. Your goal here is to offer exposure to your items, as the consumers are only becoming aware of what you offer. When launching it, a good idea would be to educate the consumers about its uses and benefits.

2.    Growth Stage

Now that the world has learned more about the product, you will likely pass into the growth stage. At this point, your profit margin will probably increase as more people buy what you offer. You may need to expand your product line so that you can keep up with the growing demand. This stage also provides the brand with plenty of chances to improve its competitiveness, creating a solid brand image. Price adjustments may also make it easier for you to boost your profits.

3.    Maturity Stage

In the maturity stage, you will likely earn the most profit with the released product. This is where the marketing costs for the item should become lower, as the market users are already aware of it. However, at this stage, competition will also be at its highest point, as users will likely compare you with similar companies. This is where you might want to look at your weaknesses and strengths, offering innovative updates to your product or changing your strategy. This should help stabilize your sales.

4.   Decline Stage

No matter how good an item may be, it will eventually reach a decline stage. For some products, this can take months, whereas for others, it can take years. Market saturation will ultimately cause your sales to drop. At this point, a company could try to revamp and relaunch it in a new form or completely retire it. Still, the process can be delayed by implementing timely strategies to increase the product’s lifecycle.

Key Strategies for Managing the Product Lifecycle

When it comes to managing the product lifecycle before and after a release, you need to consider plenty of things. With that said, what are the three primary ways to manage a product through its life cycle? Most business owners narrowed it down to the following:

·      Carefully Choosing Pricing Strategy

As a business owner, you might wonder: “What are two key characteristics of the introduction stage of the product life cycle?” Well, sales volume is one characteristic, but high costs also apply. This is mainly because, during the introduction stage, you spend a lot of money researching and prototyping the item you plan on releasing. This can create a significant financial hole in the beginning.

Choosing the right pricing system is among the most important items to check in your strategy. The penetration strategy is an excellent way to get past the introduction and growth stage as quickly as possible. With this option, you start at a low price or with a deal to gather users, increasing them later. This improves awareness of the product, allowing it to get faster to the maturity stage, where you can introduce the “normal price” and balance your expenses.

If penetration prices do not do the job for you, skimming may be a good way to lengthen its lifecycle. This can be implemented when you notice a dip in sales during the maturity stage, offering your product to a broader category of people. This works best for products in the electronics department, which often have lower prices as more time passes.

·      Implementing Versatility

Another critical point of launching a product is making sure you release as many markets as you possibly can. A good way to do so is to touch upon people’s preferences and offer them alternatives. For instance, if a product seems to have hit success after launch, consider offering more color options or something similar.

Offering new sizing options is also a very effective way to attract clients. Look at Samsung and its continuous journey of providing larger screens to its users. Electronics are not the only ones that can enjoy different sizes, as anything from toothbrushes to cups and perfumes can offer variety. Those who like to buy in bulk could enjoy the larger versions, whereas users who travel a lot may prefer the smaller, “fun size” option.

·      Data Revisions

You may think that once your product has been released, you are done with it and can let your marketing strategy do its thing. If the product is good, this might work for you for some time, but remember: people’s habits change. They might like your product now, but there’s no saying what will pop up on the market and take the spotlight off you.

For this reason, monitoring your data closely is an essential strategy for managing and prolonging the product lifecycle. Low sales volumes are very common, regardless of the stage, so you must learn how to adjust your marketing content. High sales volume may also require some adjustments, especially when you have a lot of demand to hold up to.

From Concept to Market – The Product Development Cycle

Releasing a new service or item on the market can be challenging, but it can be made easier if you are well-organized. Below are some steps you should go through during the product development cycle:

·      Define Clear Goals

When developing a product, you need to determine what your objective is. Indeed, while the end goal is to obtain growth and sales, you should also have specific ones. Perhaps you want to draw attention or improve your customers’ lifetime value. This can help you come up with a good marketing strategy.

·      Do the Research

Next, when developing a product, it is time to do your research. At this point, not only should you collect information on your customers, but you should also keep an eye on your competition. You must ensure that you can address their pain points and that your market will not be too much of a threat to you.

·      Choose Your Positioning

Now that you know what you want to offer and what your competition is doing, you need to figure out your position in the market. This should be settled during the early product introduction stages. Think about what you want your consumers to see when looking at your product. You can place focus on things such as benefits, special features, or even price.

·      Create a Marketing Plan

Purchases Channel Distribution


Next, you need to create a marketing plan and determine where you will most likely gain reach. For instance, while search engines are still the most common way to look for information, many sales nowadays are made through social media. A good idea would be to create a mix of channels where you market your product, going where most of your target customers are.

Special Focus – Software Product Lifecycle

While the software development lifecycle has some similarities with the average creational process, there are still some areas where it may differ. Here are the stages of the software product life cycle that you’ll need to go through:

1.    Project Planning

The first stage of software development is the product planning phase, which involves gathering data from your stakeholders. This is where you determine whether the product is feasible, helpful to users, and if it can bring revenue.

2.    Defining the Requirements

Next, you need to define the software’s requirements using your gathered data. This will give your development team a clear idea of the project’s scope.  

3.    Selecting the Design

Designing the product itself is the next product development life cycle software stage. Based on the information you gathered, the developing team will have to settle on the programming language, security system, templates, and all sorts of design issues.

4.   Developing the Product

The above design plan will be divided into multiple modules during this stage, turning everything into code. Depending on the program’s complexity, this can take a while, so you should set a timeline. Using a framework to track your milestones might be recommended at this stage.

5.    Testing for Quality

Before releasing the software to the masses, you must ensure it works as intended. Your team should perform validation tests and quality assurance tests from the earliest stages, providing a bug-free program. Consider using a simulated environment while automating repetitive tests.

6.   Deploying the Product

Now that you are done with creating the program, it is time to release it to the intended user. It should be released with the standard product launch method if it’s a brand-new product. However, if you only added an extra feature, you can go for a canary release instead (i.e., only a small number of users get access).

7.    Offering Maintenance

Information technology constantly changes, and a program that works like a charm might not work just as well in the future. One slight change in the platform can lead to countless bugs with your product. This is why you should thoroughly maintain the product, fixing potential issues before they bother your client.

Streamlining the Process

Efficiency is vital when it comes to maintaining an exemplary product management cycle. This is why you need the steps to improve product development flow, ensuring there are no delays. Here are some things you’ll want to do:

·      Align the Goals

Delays often happen in big projects where multiple teams are pursuing different goals. Without a clear goal, things can become sidetracked as you reach the end, and the development process may come to a halt. To ensure this doesn’t happen, all teams should have the same goal and even create a product development timeline to meet it.

·      Identify Inefficiencies

While practical, some processes in the development stage could also be inefficient. Perhaps one has a high error rate or requires more effort than it’s worth to keep it running. This is why teams should frequently take a step back and look at their procedure, spotting potential inefficiencies.

·      Embrace Tools and Technology

Whether you are creating a physical product or a piece of software, leveraging technology would be a good idea to streamline the process. Delays are often caused by human error or limitations, which is why automation tools can prove very efficient. They can take repetitive tasks away and keep everything in order so that everyone knows what they have to do.

The Bottom Line

By understanding the product development lifecycle, you ensure the release of a high-quality piece and its survival on the market. The more thorough you are at implementing these strategies, the higher your chances of success could be. Make sure to use these insights so that your product gains as much revenue as possible!

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