Product development can include hard-goods, software or new services, and few processes involve as many different departments within a company as product development. As the development effort crosses between departments such as marketing, research, engineering, purchasing, operations and sales there are numerous opportunities for the effort to stall or even reverse direction. This can be due budget problems becoming visible; product definition being rushed and/or the operational problems often being discovered at the end of the process.
Common to effective product development are “development stages.” The Lean Product Development Process Stages are:
- Return on Investment Analysis
- Marketing Specification
- Concept Design
- Design Product or Service
- Pilot Manufacturing Run (if applicable)
- Field Test
- Launch Marketing Plan
- Review Product Profitability versus Plan
Ironically, before you can speed up the time it takes to get a great product ready for market, you will have to learn that sometimes within the overall process, slower is faster. Specifically, stage-gates are sometimes blamed for slowing progress, but done properly with Lean concepts in mind, the end results are highly effective.
More important than each individual product development stage is the concept of the “stage-gate.” A stage-gate is a place in the process that requires everyone to signs-off, before the effort can go forward and once signed, it cannot go backwards.
Initially, stage-gates can seem to slow down the process. Until the department or team downstream of a stage-gate accepts the input to their stage of the process the effort cannot go forward. However, this will actually make the process faster, and much more effective, because it creates accountability and eliminates the possibility of getting a product that is too expensive, slow, large, etc. from getting to market. Products & Services are designed to sell profitably and launch when scheduled with all parts of the business synchronized for the launch.
The other importance of the stage-gate process is that as product development progresses, the invested money and resources accumulate such that issues or problems found later in the development process are more expensive to correct. For example final design requires more time and resources than concept design and the launch of the product or service is the most expensive of all stages and consequentially the worst stage to find a surprise problem. So stage-gates may seem like they slow the effort, but done properly they help address problems earlier in the process before they become too expensive.
If you would be interested to learn more about this topic click this link for the complete white paper, The Lean Product Development Process.
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