7 stages of Product life cycle

Aim

In this article we will explore the product life cycle

  • understand the product life cycle
  • Phases of product life cycle
  • How product life cycle integrates with various development methodologies

What is the product life cycle?

Before a product reaches the customers hand it goes through several phases. Majority of the departments in the company handle or involve themselves in at least one phase of product development. These phases capture all the actors, steps and decisions that eventually results in building a product. The phases also streamline decision making, consistent information delivery, clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

The phases

  1. Envision: Product is an idea.

  2. Plan: Approval and funds obtained from the management.

  3. Develop: Code, build or manufacture.

  4. Test

  5. Launch

    • Introduction: Build market awareness about value of the product and educate customers.

  6. Maximize

    • Growth: Capture market share and brand preference.

    • Maturity: Diversify and invest in research and development.

  7. Retire

    • Decline: Discontinue and launch a new product.

Product life cycle in detail

Envision

  • Team generates new ideas.
  • Ideas are prioritized and a feasibility analysis is conducted.
  • Many successful companies also conduct customer research.
    • The main reason to perform customer research is to identify unmet customer needs.
    • Observe how the product will create value to the customer and market.

Aim: Identify opportunity, validate product’s market fit, and convince the management about product’s potential to obtain funding.

Deliverable: Business plan, prototype, market needs and strategy document.

Consider the following questions during the envision phase when you are battling to prioritize multiple ideas.

  • Your company’s technology skill set.
  • Amount of time and money to obtain a skill set if it does not exist.
  • Does the idea coincide with tactical and strategic business values?
  • How long will it take to build the product?
  • Do you have the first mover advantage?
  • Marketing, logistics and distribution channels present to support your product
  • How long will it take to create a brand?

Plan

  • Investment and resource analysis.
  • Detailed and specific market research
  • Competitive analysis
  • Market needs and market strategy document
  • Business case finalized
  • Product description document
  • Product road map
  • Schedule

Aim: Create an overall product strategy and road map.  Obtain funding

Deliverable : Road map, business plan, market needs document, technical description document

Develop

  • Feature and schedule tradeoff is prioritized, adjusted and finalized
  • Ensure product schedule and budget is on track
  • Guide the engineering team and coordinate with design team to build a successful product

Aim: Finalize uncertain development plans, Develop final feature list and beta testing plan, customer oriented product is the outcome. 

Deliverables: Finalized product feature list, beta test plan, Product manager should also ensure that the rest of the team (Development, QA, support, service, operations, marketing etc. are onboard and on track on building the actual product that is ready for validation and testing.

Test

  • Quality assurance grills the product for unwanted defects.
  • Development team takes necessary steps to fix or defer the bugs.
  • Ensure the product is ready for market.

You can read 10 steps to software quality assurance here

Aim: Run the beta program, complete the beta report, finish the launch plan, and begin preparing launch deliverables. Test marketing messages and position the beta program participants.

Deliverable: Launch plan, completed beta plan with customer feedback that the customers find the product to be valuable.

Launch:

  • Prime the customers before launch to accept the new offering using marketing.
  • Prepare sales team, other channels, 3rd party vendors and logistics.

Aim: Prepare launch channels, release the product and implement marketing plan, begin maximize phase, allocate resources to achieve revenue targets and strategic goals.

Deliverable: Product, marketing plan, launch review documents

Maximize:

  • Support ongoing sales, the product requires ongoing marketing.
  • Generate demand, engage customers using public relations.
  • Gather feedback to ensure customer voice is heard
  • Engage critical response team in case of failure or downtime (In case of live online products, apps)
  • Achieve revenue goals

Aim: Maximize sales volume, revenue and hear customer feedback for correction and to analyze current market trends.

Deliverables: End of plan life cycle, product version and revision lifecycle using customer feedback

Retire:

Over the life time of a product its value or use declines and new versions or imitations of the product that can do more and provide better value to the customers hit the market. As a result, products need to retired  at some point.

For some products, this process isn’t much of an issue: The company has limited inventory and it sells off.

For some types of products, such as enterprise software or products being sold in the financial, government, or medical fields, planning for the end of life is a critical.

Imagine what would happen to a large consumer oriented company if it didn’t carefully plan the retirement. It could end up with billions of dollars of useless inventory and financial losses which can kill off companies.

Aim: Product manager: Investigate fully the impact of retiring a product on all parts of the business; sales, operations, and service are primary departments to check with.

Deliverable: end-of-life plan.

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