R&D is a term most of us are quite familiar with. Even if you do not know what it entitles exactly, there is a general understanding that it deciphers as research and development. However, recently, more and more people are talking about an extended version of this term – research and product development. And while the two seem oddly similar, there is a specific difference between the terms.
In this post, we discuss the basics of R&D, product development, and how it merges into research and product development.
So, to understand what dwells behind this new term – research and product development, let’s first take a look at the other two that make up the basis for it.
R&D (research and development) is a term that defines the process of researching and implementing new ideas to create an improvement for your company. This practice is explorative in nature and often does not have a concrete goal or timeframe in mind. Instead, the team explores new ideas, options, and improvements with the goal of presenting some kind of innovation.
This innovation can be an improvement of your product, a different process for how the team works, new technology that you use, etc. Here is a visualization of the R&D process made according to Educare.
Product development, on the other hand, is a term that defines the full process of researching, creating, testing, marketing, selling, and supporting a product. While it also has the research aspect within it, it is much more focused and oriented towards a specific product, goal, and timeframe. Instead of looking to add any innovation, the goal of research here is to either create a new product or improve an existing one.
Moreover, product development does not end by finding and implementing the innovation, the product then has to be tested, marketed, sold, and supported to ensure the full product lifecycle. Here is a visualization by Net Solutions on how such a process could look.
Since the term – research and product development merges the two of the other concepts together, we can claim that it is a composition of the 2. This may be a bit confusing, however, since the product development process includes research as one of the steps. So, what does this additional research in the definition alludes to? That is the thing we need to focus on here.
The concept of research and product development aims to put additional importance on the research part of the project. Not only that, but it also implies that research should be done throughout the product development lifecycle, not just at the beginning of it. As such, valuable information and insights can be drawn and used to shape the product and improve it in the right direction.
There is no denying that researching your users, market, and product capabilities is an integral part of developing any product. The key lies in finding the right balance in doing so. You have to perform the research often enough to stay relevant, but not too often, or it will become distracting and result in changing your course too much.
Having said that, finding the right rhythm, will depend greatly on your product and market. For something that needs to stay current, you will have to have a continuous research effort going on. For something more stable, you may only have to come back to the research efforts once a year.
Either way, placing focus on research and product development will help you in several specific ways:
Now that we have a better grasp of the term, let’s take a look at how you may go about organizing the research and development process itself. Since we are adding more emphasis on the research part in the product development process, we will go through the 7 key stages and define what additional steps you may consider to take. Here is a short overview of the 7 stages:
And now, let’s take a look at each stage in more detail.
The first step in the product development process is also the one most related to research. At this stage, you will have to identify what type of product you want to create or how you would like to improve a current product you have. At this stage, you don’t have to worry about the practicality or any similar issues. It is best to simply brainstorm and let the ideas flow. Even the most outrageous suggestion can eventually turn into something very valuable through the discussions.
Research – new technology, market trends, customer behavior with the current products, and the drawbacks of your competitors.
During this phase, you will have to ensure that your ideas meet the market needs or wants. To do that, you will have to employ surveys, talk to your current customers, or even try and pre-sell the product to see what is the reaction.
To get even more data or to make the final decision between several ideas, try out A/B testing to understand which of them is more favorable to the customer base. Market research and demand analysis will be two key research tools to help you with these first steps of the process.
Research – market and demand analysis to ensure the product meets customer expectations and needs, pricing research to check if the product will be profitable.
As the idea is solidified, your next step will be to build a prototype of the product. Depending on what you are producing, this can be a mockup in one of the design tools or a lifesize version of the product you will be creating. Either way, this is a good opportunity to get a sense of what you would like to build as well as to ask your audience what they would expect from the final version.
Gather focus groups and ask questions in the likes of:
Note down the missing features, and specs, and make adjustments. Beware, however, of taking everything at face value. Your customers will undoubtedly have valuable insights, they will also add things to the list that are not necessary for the product, but more so what they would like to have. it is your task to distinguish the 2.
Research – how well the potential buyers understand your product, what they identify as the main benefits and drawbacks.
Once your prototype is complete, start thinking about how you will market the product to potential customers. Think about who are your buyers, which strengths of the product they will relate to, and what channels and forms of marketing you would like to use. There is a variety of options out there and the selection will depend on your timeframe and budget. Thus, having a go-to-market strategy is key.
Research – review the market and user analysis to understand the buying persona, utilize the pain points defined in the prototype stage, and perform pricing research to set up the right pricing strategy.
As you have a better and better understanding of what you want to build and how you will sell that product to the customers, it is time to start creating your product. Do not aim to do everything in one go, instead give yourself a timeframe to build the MVP and then iterate.
This way, you will be able to launch the beta version much sooner and then come up with a product roadmap as a plan to continue improving the product. An iterative approach like Kanban or Scrum can help you manage what is being built with each cycle and you can take in customer feedback as you continue.
Research – define the MVP through user expectations and your own capacity, and gather user feedback on product performance to understand their experience.
Once the product has reached your desired stage, go for the launch. Make sure all systems, marketing, sales, etc. are ready for the event as you will want to start as strong as possible. Once the product is live, take some time and monitor the results of your marketing efforts, user interest, and how the product is being used. This will help you determine what should be changed in the future as well as what is already working.
Research – measure and analyze adoption rates, marketing interest, and product performance.
Once the product is live, it does not mean that the research and product development process is over. On the contrary, the product will have to be supported and improved to continue delivering results. Some initial improvement ideas can be gathered from the launch itself, however, you will continue to monitor the market, competitors, and your customers. Only this way you can ensure that the product you deliver stays up to par.
Research – Competitor analysis, market trends, customer satisfaction.
Research and product development is not that much different from the product development process, however, it does put a focus on gathering and analyzing various data to ensure the success of your final result. To organize all of this information and your team’s work, it is best to use tools that can visualize your project roadmap as well as break it down conveniently into smaller tasks for the team.
Teamhood can provide this with a flexible board structure, interchangeable board views, and pages to hold any important project information in an easily accessible place for the whole team. You can learn more about structuring project data with Teamhood in the video above or continue exploring in this example for setting up your process.