Finally, we get to the fun part. In the first two steps, we talked about coming up with a new product idea and then building a business case in support of it. It’s a lot of market research and crunching numbers. Stuff that I find quite boring. Apparently my father found it boring too because he would normally just skip those things altogether and go straight to the fun part – playing in the lab.
Step 3 in the product development process is when you actually do the main development of the finished product. Depending on the nature of the product you are developing, this work might be done on a computer, in a workshop, studio or other place. In our business, we develop our products in a laboratory. The lab is where you can get in there with a bunch of ingredients and mix them up and see what happens. At least that’s how my Dad did it. It’s throw-it-on-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks kind of work (or play, depending on your attitude!).
Actually the work done in the lab these days includes an enormous amount of paper research and investigation. The actual testing of formulations comes later in the process. Sometimes this testing is really a continuation of small trials that occurred back in step 1. It is common for a few down and dirty tests to be conducted in step 1 just to get an idea of whether the product is even technically feasible or perhaps to help estimate the costs. The ultimate goal is to produce a finished product that complies with the product that was described in the business case. It must achieve the specifications, performance and cost requirements that the business case was based on. If, during the develop process, the properties of the product change, it may be necessary to go back and re-examine the business case to make sure it still makes sense.
Also remember that development work can take a long time. By the time the product is ready, there may have been significant changes to the competitive landscape or to the economy. These changes may also necessitate a revision of the business case. Consider speeding up your development by outsourcing some or all of the research and development work to other labs, workshops and/or research firms. You might find that not only is the work accomplished faster, but it could be done cheaper or more effectively as well.
If the development work is successful (not always the case), then the next step is to prove the product in the real world. We will talk about validation and testing next time.