The New Product Development Process: 7 Steps to an Agile Product Launch

The New Product Development Process: 7 Steps to an Agile Product Launch

Developing new products is a complex and intricate collaboration. Everyone in the organization plays their role, from UX/UI design to finance to marketing to software developers. And there’s no perfect path to producing something great — just more and less effective strategies for navigating the process.

So whether you’re a startup entrepreneur or a seasoned Product Manager, there’s always more to learn. Agile teams can continually hone their new product development process to be more — well, Agile. 

Whiteboards’ tools can help your team stay Agile throughout the new product development process, from idea generation to product launch. Video chat with team members while you map user stories on the virtual canvas. Create and deliver professional presentations to show design prototypes to the team. Use 100+ customizable templates to plan marketing campaigns, conduct risk assessments, and analyze the competitive landscape. 

With Whiteboards, every step in the development process is that much easier because the digital whiteboard integrates deeply with Jira. Convert virtual sticky notes to Jira issues in two clicks. Search, import, and manage Jira issues from inside the Whiteboards app. Use handy import and update zones to edit issues in batches. All your updates sync instantly in Jira for seamless work management.

Try out Whiteboards Pro for free, and read on to learn about new product development, including detailed tips on templates, tools, and strategies for navigating this complex process successfully with your team.

How do we define new product development?

“New product development” refers to the entire business process of putting a working product into the hands of the end user. The new product development process includes all phases, from brainstorming through product launch. In this case, “new product” can mean any of the following:

  • an entirely new product or application
  • the significant overhaul of a current product
  • a substantially complex new feature (a.k.a. the effort of development is more on par with a new product vs. a standard incremental release)

You’ll notice that the seven stages in the section below don’t cover all product development. The complete product development life cycle involves incremental feature enhancements, bug fixes, and a range of smaller updates. The new product development life cycle ends with the commercial delivery of a minimum viable product.

As a rule of thumb, any brand-new product goes through the entire new product development process. In the case of a new feature or significant update (versus a totally new product), you may not need to go in-depth through every process step. You can likely reuse some of the work you did when developing the original product. Nevertheless, it’s good practice to establish a thorough standard process for any large-scale product development. That way, you can fast-track less risky or experimental products or features through some stages, while ensuring you don’t miss any crucial process considerations.

What is the process for new product development?

The new product development process breaks down into seven commonly identified stages. We’ll investigate each development phase in more depth below. Here’s a brief overview:

  1. Idea generation: The team produces fresh product ideas through collaborative brainstorming focused on fulfilling customer needs.
  2. Concept screening: The most promising new ideas are vetted for development feasibility and market viability.
  3. Product design: A screened and approved product is sketched out in detail, transforming the initial concept into a formal blueprint.
  4. Strategic planning: The product prototype gets submitted for budgeting, and marketing launches a customer engagement strategy.
  5. Product development: The design undergoes development and alpha testing until it meets the team’s definition of a minimum viable product (MVP).
  6. Initial deployment: The MVP is tested by selected end users to work out final issues before broader commercialization.
  7. Product launch: The MVP is made available to commercial market customers, whose feedback will drive its further development.
7 steps of the new product development process
7 steps of the new product development process

How is new product development different in Agile?

A traditional business might approach the 7-step process above in a linear fashion. In Agile product development, however, the phases are inherently flexible. The 7 stages overlap and cycle back on each other. For instance, since Agile design and development teams work collaboratively, Step 3 (product design) is not necessarily one-and-done. The initial product design might be revisited and updated during Step 5 (product development). 

The Agile product development process also employs frequent feedback loops and pivots to incorporate important new information. So by definition, Step 6 (initial deployment) involves beta testing that will likely send the product back to Step 5 for revisions. User testing may also prompt the team to revisit certain aspects of Steps 3 and 4.

In other words, don’t follow the product development process steps as if you’re assembling an IKEA desk. View the list as a flexible guide that helps ensure the business isn’t missing important development considerations. Integrate the process stages in a way that logically fits your product management.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Agile Product Development for more discussion of the processes and principles that differentiate Agile product development.

Product roadmaps and the new product development life cycle

Multiple product development cycles are often underway at once within a business. If there are various products or product lines, a large number of new features may be developed simultaneously. To create successful new products, the Product Manager needs to steer the product development process along a unified product vision.

The primary reference point for that long-term product vision is the product roadmap. For more information on this big-picture planning tool, see our Guide to Creating Product Roadmaps. Learn how to use the Product Roadmap template to execute new product development inside a cohesive product management plan.

What are the different types of new products?

New products and features take a number of forms. We see these forms every day in passing, but it can help frame the creative process to consider them categorically. Here are some ways to think of new technology products, using familiar examples:

  • Disrupters: Some new products thoroughly overtake their predecessors. When Wikipedia emerged in 2001, encyclopedias had existed for centuries. But a dynamic, crowd-sourced, group-vetted online encyclopedia was a completely new phenomenon. Two decades later, Wikipedia is the go-to reference for looking up a quick fact, and is one of the most-visited sites on the internet.
  • Pioneers: In 2009, Uber created a seismic shift in the transportation sector by inviting car owners to become part-time taxi drivers. Around the same time, Airbnb similarly inspired thousands (now millions) of homeowners to moonlight as mini-hotel operators.
  • Challengers: Lyft followed quickly on the heels of Uber, offering a virtually identical end user experience. The main visible difference? A large fuzzy pink mustache on the front of Lyft drivers’ cars signaled customers that their ride was there.
  • Spin-offs: These pioneers and their competitors sparked thousands of creative spin-offs, some quite niche. For instance, among other Airbnb-esque products, you can now rent a homeowner’s yard by the hour as an outdoor activity space for your dog.
  • Variations: Often a “new” idea is just a successful proof of concept recycled and positioned a little differently in the market. For instance, in 2013 PayPal acquired the very similar product Venmo, which appealed to a younger customer base. Venmo made sending people money more fun, complete with a social-media-style feed showing friends’ recent money exchanges and accompanying personalized receipts.
  • Reincarnations: Netflix started renting DVDs to customers via physical mail in 1999. Evolving with the market away from physical media, Netflix launched its streaming service in 2007. In 2013 it pivoted again to additionally become a producer of original content.

In short: some new products are more original than others. Sometimes you reinvent the encyclopedia. Sometimes you spin a human product into one for dogs. Other times you do basically the same thing a competing product does, but add a new flare. All of these are new products, but no new product is totally new. Most products are derivative, and innovation can simply be whichever derivation provides value to your customer.

Of course, most of our new product examples above are household names. Don’t let that intimidate you. Whether you’re a tiny start-up developing your first app or an established business with a full product line, the same considerations apply. The basic principles of a successful product development process hold true throughout its many forms.

What are the key principles of new product development?

Before we jump into the 7 steps of new product development, let’s revisit some basic considerations. We’ll be the first to admit that these are truly quite basic — but then again, so is our human tendency to get distracted by shiny objects. Our goal here is to avoid the shiny objects of product development.

One such object might be the pet project we’re fixated on, just because it’s such a cool concept. Another shiny object could be a competitor’s flashy product feature: something that seems important but doesn’t actually generate much value. Or maybe we’re just hung up on perfecting an aspect of our current product — even though our end users think it’s fine as is.

Whatever our distraction tendency, it’s important to stay focused on what actually makes a product (and a business) successful:

  • The customer. Effective product development prioritizes whichever products provide real value to the end user as shown by the product’s profitability. So our central product development question is: “What does our customer want most, and how do we deliver that?”
  • The vision. A successful Product Manager constantly evaluates which (customer-valued) products fit within the company’s product vision. In some cases, an opportunity arises that pushes us to expand the vision. But vision adjustment is a long-term consideration, not a sudden pivot. Considering the importance of a cohesive product vision, our question becomes: “What does our customer want most, and how do we deliver that within our scope?”
  • The limitations. Customers want a lot of things, many of which might fit within our product vision. Our primary development limitations are our collective skill sets, company budget, and the constraints of a reasonable workload. Additionally, every new product consideration needs to find equilibrium inside the larger development strategy. Different development streams should coexist in harmony and not cannibalize each other’s resources. So our broader development question becomes: “What does our customer want most, and how do we deliver that within our scope while maintaining stewardship of our available resources?”

As you select which new products to develop, anchor your choices in these three considerations. Pretty much everything else is a distraction.

The 7 steps of the new product development process

An important reminder before we get into the product development steps: In Agile development, they aren’t really linear. We can’t emphasize this enough. Specifically, treat Steps 2-6 below as a flexible process. Integrate them to fit your product management. 

For instance: as you read, consider how Steps 2 (concept screening) and 3 (product design) might play off each other. If we followed the steps in strict sequence, the design team wouldn’t show up until Step 3. But in Agile methodology, the business, design, marketing, and development teams collaborate throughout the new product development life cycle. 

Instead of the design team entering at Step 3, perhaps the product designers sketch up some of the concepts discovered in Step 1. Maybe this helps the screening process in Step 2. Then approved ideas move into a more detailed design process as described in Step 3.

Takeaway: Cover all your bases, but stay Agile while you do it. Rearrange this 7-step process however it helps your team do their best development work.

Step 1. Idea generation: brainstorm new product features

The first step in the new product development process is creative thinking. You might start from scratch, with the field of product possibilities wide open. Most often, though, you’ll be seeking strategic opportunities in relation to an existing product or within a given market sector. 

New product ideas occasionally arrive in a random flash of inspiration. But usually, even highly creative people need more systematic brainstorming tools. The Whiteboards app offers customizable templates to aid the product concept development process. 

Before choosing a template, identify a central question, theme, or problem to focus the discussion. Use these prompts to get your team started:

  • Specific customer request. Before doing a lot of high-concept product development work, examine your customer feedback and marketing research. Are end-users consistently requesting a specific product feature or new functionality? Your best product strategy is likely giving the customer what they’re already asking for.
  • General user problem. Instead of a specific product ask, your customer base may have a general complaint or frustration. Can your next product development cycles creatively address these broader forms of feedback? Phrase the customer frustration in the form of a user story. “As a user, I want [new product or feature] so that I can [avoid stated frustration].” Now your team task is to figure out what form that new product takes.
  • Notable competitor offering. This is another straightforward starting point. What valuable products or features are your top competitors offering that you aren’t? Where do you need to catch up? Sometimes this is obvious. Other times you’ll need to dig. What are customers saying about your biggest competitors? Why are they drawn to another product over yours? Have you examined related but somewhat different products? Can you combine the features of multiple attractive products to create something unique?
  • Market fulfillment gap. Sometimes the next great product idea comes in the form of a simple question: “Why isn’t there a product out there that does X?” Pay attention to internal and external stakeholders asking this question and use it to inform your product development process.
  • Untapped customer base. Maybe you have a successful product but it’s not reaching certain key market segments. Does the product need a makeover or enhancement? Could you develop a version of the product that would attract a different customer profile? Survey a prospective base and find out what would motivate them to use your product.

Notice that each of these prompts points you back to your central development question: Which new products does the customer want most? In some cases, the customer has told you, either directly or indirectly. In other cases, your competitor has figured it out, and you just need to adopt that functionality into your product line.

Other times, you may hit on a concept for a product the customer doesn’t even know they want yet. But don’t overcomplicate the process. It’s tempting to want to discover the most innovative product ever. However, most of the time, the best ideas aren’t that obscure. End users tend to know what’s missing from their product experience. Your challenge is simply to find the best development solution to fill that gap.

Once you’ve established some direction, choose a brainstorming template to guide your process. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Looking to develop a fresh take on an existing product, either your own or a competitor’s? The SCAMPER template offers a valuable framework to reimagine and recombine established products to create new ones. SCAMPER stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another Use, Eliminate, and Rearrange. Playing with these 7 possibilities helps your team consider current features from creative new angles.
SCAMPER template on
SCAMPER template on
  • Trying to revamp a product by finding innovative solutions for general user concerns? Consider the Design Thinking Process template. Gather your relevant user feedback and empathize with your customers. Explore their frustrations, identify concrete needs, and brainstorm solutions. UX can pick up the process at the “prototype” step if the team decides the solution is promising.
Design Thinking Process template on
Design Thinking Process template on
  • Playing with a general concept to meet a market need or appeal to a new customer base? Try out the Mind Map template or its cousin, the Lotus Brainstorming template. Our Mind Mapping Guide helps you tap into the creativity of the product team without overthinking. Start with your central theme, topic, question, or problem. Invite team members to contribute spontaneously and play off each other’s suggestions.
Lotus Brainstorming template on
Lotus Brainstorming template on

Step 2. Concept screening: select the best product ideas

The next step in product development is to examine a promising product concept and ask two questions: can we develop it — and should we? In other words, is the product viable in the marketplace? Is the development process feasible in terms of business resources?

To address the external business realities, you’ll need a clear picture of the competition. Do a detailed competitive analysis to contextualize your proposed product within the market landscape. Challenge your assumptions about what customers want in a product. Ask hard questions. If you don’t find good answers, seek out more direct customer input.

Competitive Analysis template on
Competitive Analysis template on

Now you have customer-oriented product proposals and a realistic market assessment. Your next task is to inventory your development resources. Which of your product ideas can you afford to develop? What’s worth the investment? Assess costs and benefits in the form of a structured risk analysis. Our Guide to Business Risk Assessment walks you through this process. 

Risk Assessment template on
Risk Assessment template on

Now your ideas are narrowed down to only viable products. They are customer-approved, aligned with the product vision, and can be developed in a sustainable way.

Step 3. Product design: move from concept to blueprint

In step three, the design team takes the chosen product idea from concept to prototype. They produce a presentation-ready blueprint that will be easily understood by the development, marketing, and business teams.

To inspire your design process, work from the User Persona template to establish the mood and attitude of your customer. Follow the steps of the user experience on the User Story Mapping template to plot app navigation and features. Save these finished templates for communicating your design logic to the development and sales teams.

Use Whiteboards’ Frames tool to make a slide presentation for key business stakeholders. Hold a video chat on Whiteboards and present the front-end app layout. Explain the main features and user navigation highlights. Walk other stakeholders through the end-user product experience. Get buy-in and valuable feedback to refine the design process further.

Step 4. Strategic planning: perform business and marketing analysis

With the initial product design in place, get budget approval. Once the new product is greenlit, sales and marketing teams begin planning how to promote the new product to current and potential customers.

You already defined and explored the target customer when brainstorming and screening the product. The customer outreach strategy will naturally reflect the process up to this point. For instance, is this a product feature the current customer base has specifically been asking for? If so, let them know it’s on its way as soon as there’s a solid development timeframe. Build anticipation by clearly communicating how the new feature will improve the user experience.

Is the new product something that fills a distinct market gap? Does it address a general complaint about a current offering? Reach out to end users with your product solution. While you’re at it, invite them to give another round of feedback. This is the time to refine the current product design or pivot to something a little different.

Is the new product focused on attracting a new target demographic? Study the design team’s work from Step 3 and make sure your efforts are aligned. If you don’t have an established beta testing base, begin seeking testers for Step 6.

Sales and marketing can also benefit from participating in a stakeholder analysis with the product team. Identify all your new product’s internal and external stakeholders. Decide how and when you’ll reach out to keep them informed about new product development. Our Stakeholders Analysis Guide explains templates and tools for organizing and streamlining your outreach.

Stakeholders Analysis template on
Stakeholders Analysis template on

Step 5. Product development: create and refine

With design, business, and marketing processes nailed down, the developers can begin their work. Their goal is to launch a high-quality minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly as is reasonable. 

At this point, designers and developers work together to refine and estimate the product’s user stories. Define the MVP and establish a release schedule. Include the MVP launch date as well as subsequent feature releases.

Use Whiteboards for Sprint Planning as you schedule out your releases. Templates for backlog refinement and estimation keep planning meetings focused. Import existing Jira issues or quickly create new ones from virtual sticky notes. Update tasks and user stories in real time as you estimate and plan. All issue updates sync in Jira so your release schedule is live by the time the meeting ends.

An important note on release planning: Keep in mind that a minimum viable product doesn’t express the product vision in all its glory. The MVP is a working product that provides real value to end users. It should be functional, free of bugs, and thoroughly tested by internal testers and selected external stakeholders (Step 6).

The minimum viable product is delivered with the expectation of frequent updates and feature additions. Instead of front-loading these and slowing down the commercial launch, let customers know what’s next. A detailed, visually attractive preview of coming attractions goes a long way in keeping users engaged and excited.

Step 6. Initial deployment: test out the minimum viable product

Once the new product is vetted internally, it’s time to turn it loose on a targeted group of external stakeholders. Alpha testers can catch a lot, but the real test lies in the quality of the average user’s experience.

You don’t need a huge group for beta testing — just a motivated and representative one. Good testers fit your target customer profile, have a genuine interest in your product, and are happy to deliver blunt feedback. You can invest in professional beta testing services, or follow creative routes:

  • Current users. If you’re testing out a new feature or related product, tap into your existing customer base. Loyal customers are naturally invested in your product improvements. Offer early product access to incentivize them to provide feedback.
  • Potential customers. Reach out to people who’ve signed up for emails or follow you on social media. Offer early access and a generous trial upgrade in return for regular feedback.
  • Friends and family. Small startups often rely on spreading the word through informal social networks. Does your app serve pet users? Who are the pet enthusiasts in your life? Can they draw in additional relevant testers?
  • Internet hotspots. Where do your target customers congregate online? Locate relevant Facebook groups and other niche discussion forums. Find conversations where people are looking for the solutions your product offers. Don’t leave spammy comments. Do reply thoughtfully and offer legitimate product incentives to interested participants.
  • Your website. Engage the people whose searches brought them to your site. Pin an attractive offer to the top of your site, or feature a friendly invitation on your home page. Create a dedicated landing page that briefly explains the testing opportunity and its benefits, and has an easy sign-up.

Pro tip: As you receive product testing feedback, keep good track of your most valuable and engaged testers. Assemble a reliable and motivated testing base and continue to engage and incentivize them. Maintain these relationships, and you’ll have a huge head start on future new product testing.

Step 7. Product launch: release your product into the wild

With your product tested and approved, it’s time for a commercial launch. What does a successful new product launch look like?

  • The entire product team is aligned on the product vision. 
  • The marketing team has had a cohesive messaging campaign leading up to the launch, to be continued through subsequent feature releases.
  • Key channels and strategies are identified to promote the product launch to current and potential customers.
  • End users are anticipating the launch and excited to engage.
  • Tracking is established to monitor traffic channels in order to collect data for future campaigns.
  • The online help desk is updated with relevant information to field user questions.
  • Customer care is deeply knowledgeable about the product.
  • The developers are ready to quickly address any quirks or bugs that slipped through testing.
  • The product release schedule is stocked with additional features to be developed in upcoming Sprints.
  • All relevant documentation is complete.

That’s it. Execute these steps, and the new product development process is complete!

Agile product development with Whiteboards

Of course, launching your new product is just the beginning of the (hopefully) much longer product life cycle. As you continue your product development, you’ll need powerful tools that fit the Agile team process. For remote and distributed teams, a virtual whiteboard is a key collaboration tool.

Whatever your product vision, Whiteboards is the perfect meeting place to plan your next steps. The Whiteboards app has over 100 flexible templates to assist you through troubleshooting, retrospectives, goal-setting, PI Planning, and much more. 

Every Whiteboards collaboration carries the added benefit of unique two-way Jira integration. Import Jira issues from your backlog and work with them during planning meetings. Create new issues in seconds from virtual sticky notes. Update issues individually or in bulk. All your edits appear instantly in Jira, keeping the project and team up to speed.

Try out Whiteboards Pro for free with your team today. Watch our short demo to see how seamless integration with Jira helps keep your product development on track.