Product Engineering in a Nutshell: from Product Ideation to Deployment
According to a rather conservative estimate from Harvard Business School, around 30,000 products are launched every year, however almost 95% fail. No one is immune — Google, Apple, Amazon and other tech giants have had their own share of tech failures. And there are many reasons for that like bad market fit, insufficient funding, or inadequate timing.
Having your product developed within a robust product engineering framework increases the chances of success as it enables teams to respond to the ever-changing market conditions and address customers’ needs as quickly as possible. Software product development refers to the process of turning an idea into a fully-fledged product through ideation, design, development, and deployment. But the ultimate aim of product engineering is more than just delivering a product — it is to make sure that the product will survive in the real world after release and will satisfy the needs of end users.
Depending on the industry, there may be specifics to a product engineering process but generally the steps are as follows:
1. Product ideation
Since it all starts with an idea, product ideation is the first and most crucial step in a software product’s lifecycle. The goal here is not to immediately find a unique, foolproof idea but rather to brainstorm and generate raw ideas for further discussion. Furthermore, some of the best ideas are nothing more than iterations of the existing products.
One of the best ways to go about product ideation is to use the SCAMPER model that provides a structured approach to thinking outside the box. Each letter in this acronym stands for a prompt:
- Modify (or magnify and minify)
- Put to another use
In addition, using insights from competition analysis can help you better understand your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and learn from their mistakes. And thorough market research will help you gauge the consumer demand.
2. Feasibility analysis
Having a clear idea of a software product is not enough. Before jumping to wireframing and prototyping, a product team must also ask the question “Is this idea viable?”
Early-stage feasibility analysis is critical in helping product teams determine the overall software product viability by identifying if a company has the necessary tools and resources, exploring costs and financial benefits, considering the potential for market growth, investigating technical challenges and obstacles, and providing insights into project constraints. A comprehensive feasibility study helps minimize risks and provide high-quality information for important decision-making.
3. Product design
Design is one of the most important steps in the software product development process because the entire product will be built based on the decisions made during that stage. In product engineering, design is not only about how a solution will look but also how users will interact with it in order to address their needs.
And to ensure the best user experience possible, it is imperative to understand different use cases. Many product teams build user personas — semi-fictional characters that highlight key behaviors, goals, motivations, and pain points of target customers. These personas can further be used to create persona-based scenarios describing how potential customers would use the product to perform a specific task within a specific context.
The next step in the design process is to define the basic structure and layout of your product through wireframes and interactive prototypes. Sharing a visual representation with stakeholders early on makes it easy to get their feedback and refine the product design before it becomes too expensive.
4. Development and testing
Once there is an approved product design, the development stage begins where the engineering team turns design mockups and prototypes into working software. Since it is a complex process, this stage can take the longest time in proportion to the overall project.
The best way to approach software product engineering is to rely on agile methodology and start with an MVP — a minimum viable product with enough core features to bring value and attract early adopters. Getting an MVP to your target groups allows you to test the waters and gather valuable feedback that would inform further iterations and the overall product development strategy.
To prepare the product for deployment and meet customers’ expectations, this stage also includes comprehensive testing. Already during the coding stage developers perform unit testing to ensure that each unit of the software code performs as expected. The QA team covers integration, exploratory, functional and acceptance testing to guarantee the highest quality of the end product.
When your MVP has been thoroughly tested, it is ready for deployment in the live environment where it will be used by real customers. This stage involves leveraging the DevOps approach and setting up a CI/CD pipeline. Continuous integration enables engineers to work on code simultaneously and integrate all code changes into the shared repository, while continuous deployment automates the process of pushing the code to the production environment.
Embracing deployment best practices is particularly important for agile projects where continuous delivery underpins the ability to roll out small incremental changes in a smooth, error-free manner.
6. Product support and maintenance
At this point you have a fully operational software product but the work is not over yet. The last stage of the product engineering lifecycle is continuous support and maintenance where the product is monitored to ensure it functions as intended. To achieve that, the support and maintenance stage can include a range of activities like fixing bugs, optimizing performance, upgrading and updating the software to work with new systems.
A lot goes into creating a successful software product that can stand out in a crowded marketplace. A well-planned product engineering process can significantly increase the chances for success as it is focused specifically on developing a product that is a good market fit, at a low cost and as fast as possible.
If you are looking for a technology partner that has experience in delivering digital products, Kanda can help. For over 25 years, we have been enabling startups and large enterprises to turn their ideas into high-quality, state-of-the-art solutions that users love. Talk to our experts to discuss the details of your next project.