Success Factors in Online Product Development
Product development can be quite a tricky thing. It’s not something that can be done just by anyone, and even those that have been in this field for a long time are bound to encounter complexities and difficulties. Online product development is no different. In fact, many would even argue that it is more complicated than your usual new product development. Still, just like in any new product development endeavor, the probabilities of online product development becoming a success is high, provided you have made sure that all the key components area in place.
If you ask people engaged in business on what is sure to guarantee success for online product development – or any product development, for that matter – most of them are likely to say that it is money. Is the R&D spending more than adequate to support the project? Will they have enough money to pay for highly skilled people that will be included in the product development team?
They are not wrong; however, they are not entirely correct, either. Having adequate money and resources is just one of the many factors that can impact the success of developing a new online product.
The success or failure of online products hinges on several critical factors, which we will categorize into four: strategic factors, development process factors, market environment factors, and organizational factors. Hence, in this article, we will explain each category of success factors in online product development: 1) strategic factors, 2) development process factors, 3) organizational factors, 4) market environment factors, and 5) a short conclusion.
These are the factors that have an effect on the company’s overall online product strategy, or how the new product will impact the company’s overall business strategy and goals.
The strategic factors that you should consider include the following:
1) Availability of resources
Many online product development projects have been abandoned or discarded for the simple reason that the developers do not have adequate resources – both in manpower and money. From the beginning, the company must have a clear-cut budget in place, and they should have those resources readily on hand. Notice how many businesses have large appropriations in their budgets for R&D activities. These R&D spending almost always relates to new product development.
2) Product advantage
A new online product will not have any hope of succeeding if it does not have anything to offer. Therefore, you should see to it that you have a strong product advantage before pushing through with the process.
3) Technological/manufacturing synergy
IT, or information technology, synergy has been seen to bring about significant synergy savings – something that any organization wouldn’t say no to. The success of online product development will also be influenced by the integration of diverse technology systems that the company already has – and how these systems work together upon integration.
One thing that many businesses make a mistake on is making use of a technology that is not yet ready. You have a product idea, and you have the technology to develop the idea. However, make sure that the technology is already fully developed and ready for application. Otherwise, you may end up spending more time, money and other resources using something that is not yet actually fully functional.
4) Well-defined new product strategy
An online product development team cannot just launch into a project blindly. They require a solid idea on the company’s strategy on new products. Having early product definition will steer them in the right direction, since they have a clear path to follow. Thus, the product strategy for the business must be defined clearly. What should the new product strategy cover? It should have the following:
- The business’ new online product goals;
- The areas of focus in online produce development;
- The role of the new products in achieving the overall business goals;
- The expected profitability of the new products.
DEVELOPMENT PROCESS FACTORS
Next, you’d have to look into the factors that directly affect the process of developing the new online product. They include the following:
1) Top management support
How much support is the product development team getting from the top management? Is the team being monitored closely, or does the top brass barely pay attention to how the development process is going on? If the top management shows more than a passing interest in the development process, the team is likely to feel more motivated to put more effort into developing the new product. Commitment to new online products on the part of the senior management is another good sign that it is something worth investing time and money on.
2) High-quality new product process
Take a look at the product process itself. Since it is a “process”, it covers the steps or activities that will be followed in the development of online products, from the time of the inception of the idea all the way to the launch of the new product and even various post-launch activities.
A high quality new product process is one that has a sharp and clear product definition early on, but also clearly provides a smooth guide for execution, all while offering enough flexibility for the developers to make tweaks or adjustments when and if necessary. It is not enough that you have a process; make sure it is streamlined for efficiency, but without sacrificing effectiveness. After all, you want a product process that will yield excellent outcomes.
Take note, however, that having a high-quality new product process is not enough. At the end of the day, the execution of the new product process will be the ultimate yardstick in measuring its quality.
3) Proficiency of technological activities
It is important that you are aware of what technological activities are involved, and what the risks are. New product development teams will rely greatly on preliminary and detailed technical assessments since, through them, they will find out what are the probable technical routes and risks are. This will also help them in identifying the costs and capital requirements for the project, as well as the timing or scheduling.
This entails looking into the structure of the business or the organization. The main issues to be addressed include how the team assigned to the online product development project was chosen and organized, and how the team interacts with each other and with other external parties.
1) High-quality new product development teams
Choosing the right people for the job is very important for any project. Naturally, if you want to have a topnotch product, you would have to find people with equally topnotch skills and qualifications to comprise the team that you will assign the project to.
But finding the right people does not pertain only to their skills, qualifications and contributions. It also refers to how they work together in order to develop the right product, within the specified time frame, and strictly within the bounds of the budget that was allotted for the specific project at hand.
The team leader will be the glue that will keep the members of the team together. He is the driver that will steer the team towards achieving their goal. Therefore, it is important that a team leader be assigned to only one online product development project. In the event that it is not possible, assign him to another project or two, but not too much that he will be too spread too thinly and will end up being inefficient and unproductive.
It is also important that there will only be one team leader for the entire duration of the project. From the inception until the post-launch activities, having one recognized team leader adds a sense of cohesion to the whole project, and the vision will also remain intact.
In choosing the members of the team, here are some important tips:
- If you already have an existing team in place, your main task at hand is to ensure that the work assignment and division of labor is done properly. Therefore, conduct an assessment of each individual’s strength and weaknesses.
- Next, assess the team as a whole. Look for gaps or areas where the team seems to be lacking or inadequate. At the same time, identify the team’s strengths.
- Using your individual and team assessment of strengths and weaknesses, come up with a plan where the team’s strengths are leveraged and the weaknesses are turned into strengths.
- If you feel that you need more skills to your team, look outside the team. You might just have other talents from the organization that will be able to contribute greatly to your current In many larger companies, they practice making use of cross-functional teams in order to maximize their manpower’s skills sets in product development. This cross-functional teamwork has been seen to work wonders in various large company settings since teams are able to access skills of others and offer what they have to other teams as well. It’s a classic case of give-and-take, with both teams benefiting, and the business getting the best results.
2) Climate in the workplace
This refers to the overall atmosphere within the workplace. Fostering an innovative climate within the organization – not just the new product development team – will facilitate the flow of ideas and the freer sharing of talents.
The most common examples of activities that are conducted to promote an innovative climate in the workplace include:
- Encouraging the submission or sharing of ideas from employees or other members of the organization, even if they are not part of the product development team.
- Supporting employees as they individually look for ideas and work on projects of their own choice, without necessarily being assigned to them by the company. Agreeing to provide them time off to pursue these individual and independent projects will benefit the company in the long run. Similarly, making resources available to employees in these pursuits is also highly recommended.
Management of people plays an important factor in fostering a harmonious and productive climate in the workplace. All too often, especially in larger companies, one person can be assigned to more than three online product development projects at once. In this case, it is important that the resource commitments, as well as the time allocation, be spelled out clearly. Overlaps, if left unmanaged, will lead to problems and other inefficiencies. Assignments of people to projects must be made in a realistic manner in order to keep these inefficiencies at a minimum.
How the team interacts or communicates is also integral to online product development. Conducting regular meetings, if only to provide progress reports and status updates, is very important. This is to ensure that all the members of the team are kept up to date on the latest developments in the project, and for them to identify problems as they crop up.
MARKET ENVIRONMENT FACTORS
After taking a look within the confines of the organization, it is also important to consider the factors affecting the market or the environment of the online product being developed. The factors are:
1) Market size and potential
Like in every new product development process, you also have to take note of the size of the market for the online product you are developing. You have probably already established through prior market studies that there is a market for the proposed product. But how big is the market? Is it enough to guarantee profitability once the online product has been released?
Who are your competitors, and how are they doing? Knowing your competition will give you an idea what you will be up against. You will also get hints on what you should incorporate into the design of your new product in order to make it stand out when placed alongside the competition.
3) Other external environment factors
Other factors from the external environment that you should take into account include government regulations and other similar restrictions.
In this respect, conducting market assessment and studies is very important, since they will be your most reliable tools in learning about your market size and potential, the level of need of the market for what you are proposing to offer, and what your target market is looking for. Going into as much detail in your market studies will definitely not hurt and will actually even give you a clearer view of your market and the competition.
Online product development will also be successful when you see to it that your market is aware of, and interested in, your new product. That is the reason why it is also a good idea to conduct activities to generate high levels of interest and awareness among your target market. This will surely pave the way for the new product once it is ready for launching and distribution.
Notice how some online product developers provide regular updates on their product development in their websites by way of news articles and blog posts. This is an effective method of piquing the market’s interest and getting a feel of their expectations and their requirements.
It is not just money, and it’s not just manpower that will help make online product development successful. Instead, it is a mix of the above-mentioned success factors.