While delivering an exceptional customer experience depends on doing a lot of things right across the customer journey, the most important of all is a well though-out and well-executed Product Development Process (PDP). Some of the key aspects of PDP that can greatly improve the customer experience are discussed in this blog post.
1. Always start with the customer insight
The core objective of launching any product or service is to fulfill a real customer need. Due to lack of clarity on business objectives, more than often, the product managers and department heads ignore customer insights and launch products just to counter competitive moves or to meet roadmap deadlines. Such products create customer experience issues because they are not entirely based on customer insights. This is why investing time in coming up with actionable customer insights at the start of PDP is essential to developing the right product that will deliver on customer needs and on the promised customer experience.
2. Set up governance and prioritization criteria
While choosing the core product team is straightforward, having the right governance structure is not straightforward but is critical to the success of PDP. The governance team is responsible for evaluating, prioritizing, and approving ideas at each decision gate to move the project ahead in the PDP. An effective governance structure consists of department heads or key decision makers from all departments that have a major stake in the product. The most relevant and recommended prioritization criteria to be used by the governance team is the ROI of the product or service under consideration. Another key role of the governance team is to align demand and supply within the organization to develop realistic roadmap.
3. Commit to manage interdepartmental demand-supply
We don’t live in an ideal world where there are no constraints. The commercial teams would always want to develop and launch more products than there is capacity on the technical side. The bottlenecks would always be there. The first step to tackle this is to recognize that there is a need to manage demand and supply and it will require the demand unit (e.g. marketing) and the delivery unit (e.g. technical) to sit together to reach a solution. To create a good demand and supply alignment it pays off to chalk out details related to various technical delivery types. For example the delivery schedule for a low-complexity and high-impact project should be different from a medium-complexity and medium-impact project. Having a clear idea of demand and supply constraints at the start of the business cycle helps greatly in setting the right expectations for all stakeholders and allowing them to create realistic and achievable business plans and roadmaps. Failing to manage demand and supply results in un-due pressure on stakeholders that leads to launch of poorly developed projects and in most cases missed launch deadlines for high-impact projects.
4. Follow the stage gate process with discipline
Be it a small or large company, there will always be a stream of ideas vying for the approval to get developed and launched. Since it is not possible to develop all ideas into reality, it is essential to institute a stage gate process to pick good business ideas from the not so good ones. A typical stage gate process consist of below stages:
- It starts with ideation in which the idea is presented in its original form backed with high level qualitative and quantitative analysis.
- Ideas that pass the ideation stage go into conception stage in which the idea is refined and details are polished. This stage is backed with detailed business case and cross-functional input.
- Concepts that make it to the next round after thorough business evaluation, go into technical analysis phase to be evaluated for practicality and resource requirements for development.
- Based on the output of technical analysis, feasible ideas go into development phase. By this time business teams need to be sure about product launch as much effort has gone into the idea and the cost of abandoning is high.
- Once the product or service is developed, it is time to do rigorous internal and customer testing to ensure that all product features and experience are as per the requirement set out in concept and as per expectation of the customers.
- If the result of rigorous testing is successful, the product or service is ready to go through the final stage of commercial launch. This stage can be preceded with a soft launch or test market stage and followed by post evaluation.
As it is evident from the description of each stage above, missing out fully or partially any one of the stages would result in a compromised customer experience of the product or service.
Looking forward to your feedback and comments. What do you think are the key areas in PDP that affect customer experience?