Tips for successful product development. This is a multi-part series.
To Read Part 1 – Vaporware Wars – Go here.
To Read Part 2 – How Products are Chosen for Development – Go here.
To Read Part 3 – Product Development – Investigation – Go here.
To Read Part 4 – Product Design, Part 1 – Go here.
To Read Part 5 – Product Design, Part 2 – Go here.
To Read Part 6 – Safety Certifications – Go here.
To Read Part 7 – Getting Ready to Ship – Go here.
Ultimately, the success or failure of a product rests squarely on the shoulders of the Product Manager. Building a product that only answers questions no one is asking, is a fast path to a product that will not sell. During the product development process, a Product Manager is constantly seeking feedback from prospective customers. In many companies, the Product Manager is known as the “Voice of the Customer”.
Early in the development process, surveys and telephone calls provide most of this information. As the product becomes more defined, so does the feedback process.
Alpha Testing is where people familiar with the product get an actual product for use. Most of the time, these are people internal to the company. This stage of testing is accomplished with prototype products that may not be finished – that is, not quite ready for exposure to the outside world. It is a critical stage to determine if the product is functioning as expected, but often does not communicate if the product is a solution that customers will want.
Beta testing comes later in the development process, and is a more formalized program where products are given to people outside the company and asked to provide their opinions. Timing of beta testing is always a struggle. Testing should be done with products that are as close to being finished as possible, yet the results may indicate that the product requires changes. The Product Manager must be certain that she is asking the right questions during beta testing, and providing a way for the participants to clearly communicate their likes and dislikes about the product.
Participants in beta testing are typically existing customers that have experience with the company’s products. As an integrator, the most help you can provide to a manufacturer is to participate in beta testing programs. If you are asked and accept the responsibility, it is critical to respond in a timely fashion with your feedback. It is extremely frustrating for Product Managers to constantly chase their beta participants to get information.
Beta testers get to see products before they ship, and have an opportunity to provide real input that will affect the final product. To contribute as a beta tester, contact the Product Managers in the companies in which you have an interest. You will see these guys at the trade shows. They can be a valuable resource for you regarding what is being built, what might be getting built, and most importantly, how real are the products being displayed.
While this series has glossed over a lot of the details, hopefully it has been informative and provides insight to all the behind the scenes work that goes into even the smallest product. As you can see, a lot of moving parts must come together in just the right sequence for an idea to become a finished product.