Critical Thinking for Product Development

Previous articles have covered product development tools and methodologies such as lean product development, agile, design for six sigma, product life cycle (PLC) and project management processes.

In this article, lets consider “the product” being developed any hardware product, software, IT system, service or new business process.  We’ll use the acronym “PSSBP” (Product, Service, Software, Business Process) as an all-encompassing placeholder and to illustrate critical thinking on the topic as follows:

  • Do we know what customers value for our PSSBP?
  • Have we collected voice-of-customer and/or performed a market analysis?
  • Have we translated customer needs into valid requirements?  Do the requirements include all inputs from the customer, environmental, regulatory and intended-use considerations?
  • Have we identified the most important characteristics of the PSSBP?  Do we understand how those characteristics might vary and result in a dissatisfied customer?
  • Have we modeled the financial benefits of selling or implementing the new PSSBP?  Are we updating and monitoring the estimated financial benefit as the PSSBP is developed?
  • Are we proceeding with a robust PSSBP design concept?  If we started with an idea or design concept, have we gone upstream to the customer to validate it?
  • Can we get a prototype, pilot or model of the PSSBP in front of the customer “sooner rather than later” to learn from their feedback?
  • Can we model PSSBP performance?  Can we use the model clarify requirements, and to maximize value of the PSSBP and minimize cost?
  • Do we know what our PSSBP cost and quality drivers are, and are we proactively working to address them?
  • Are we testing the PSSBP to validate the functional performance model accuracy, and/or to ensure the PSSBP meets the originally developed valid requirements?
  • Can we use any iterative design-evaluate-redesign (agile) processes or do we use a waterfall project management process?
  • Are we minimizing risks to the customer on the PSSBP?  Are we managing or mitigating project risks?
  • Do we have the right mix of leadership, governance and management to manage the project?
  • Have we optimized our portfolio of projects and is this one of the most valuable projects to execute?
  • Do our project participants generally “speak the same language” regarding the PSSBP development process including regulatory considerations?
  • What is our project governance process? Would we benefit from project phase-gate reviews?
  • Is our project monitoring effective?  Are we ensuring good quality of actual project deliverables?
  • Are we managing the project using the levers of cost, time and scope?
  • Do we have a process for adding or redeploying resources for the project?

It can be seen that these over-arching questions are universally applicable and reduces risk to the customer, reduces risk to the business entity and increases the likelihood of success.  One (or all) of the frameworks, tools and methodologies mentioned above can be key enablers accordingly.