Whats the process? Part 1
Getting a product ready for the world is a fairly long process that involves a lot of steps - each one requiring decisions and actions that will ultimately affect how successful the product will be. The process itself is truly the fine art of turning a market opportunity into a product for sale. Taking that one great idea into a final product is a process of thinking through issues & adaptations, working out details, defining all the specifics and making sure that all the right questions are raised and answered.
I generally I break it down to the following phases;
- Production preparation
For Natus we have an additional step which is crowdfunding what we need for the product to be production ready and for the actual first production. This step is in-between prototyping and launch - more on that in a later post.
Identifying an opportunity can be as easy as thinking of something you could really use in your own life, or can be as hard as having to do meticulous studies of existing product offerings in a category and break down what is missing, or what combination of features would provide a compelling product offer for a group of customers. In the case of Natus it was very much a case of me having a need for a product that would solve a problem that I, and many DJs and homestudio owners have always had. I spent time talking to friends that would clearly be target users, trying to validate the idea and continuously got great feedback. This is when you as a product developer know that you have struck something that potentially will become a success, however an idea alone does not make a product. You can be completely off in terms of what is technically feasible or what the final product could end up costing so it is important that you ask yourself all the hard questions.
I had a very clear vision from the beginning about what the minimum feature set should include, and also had a lot of "plus one" options that were considered - some made it into the product, some didn’t. In my career I have gone through many product development cycles and have had different team sizes and budgets to perform feature research. In the case of Natus the team is very limited, headed up by only myself and a few advisors so instead of spending a lot of money (which we don't have) on commercial market research we turned to our networks and used them as sounding boards for options and feature lockdown. The target audience for Natus One is very well defined; DJs and homestudio owners which helps a lot by narrowing the scope of the product. I have created products on both ends of the scale “over-the-top-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink” type of products where only few suggested options were excluded, to super narrow focused products that served one purpose only and were stripped from all extras. Both are very interesting from a product development standpoint - both offers their own set of challenges. Natus One ended up being much more of the latter; a very well defined single purpose product which in most cases also means that it solves that single problem better than anything. Some of the questions you ask yourself in the requirement phase are;
- Who will use the product?
What are the customer's requirements?
Life span, product function, strength, product look, feel and performance.
How does the product interact with those who will use it.
- What is the expected use / misuse?
How can the product be made to accommodate these expected situations?
- What are the hard points of the first great idea?
..And what are the points that simply cannot change?
- Which areas can change if needed to better meet other, more important requirements?
- What have we learned from market research
What is out there already - how can we beat it?
- What is the unique selling proposition
Can be features, pricing or even availability.
- How much will the product cost?
A specific cost target (the target might change with additional input, but it needs to remain specific).
- Expected number of units sold, and in what time frame?
The quantity to be sold will drastically effect the product cost as well as production processes.
- How will the product be sold?
Sales channels, Packaging, Shipping, Colors, Sizes, etc.
- What is the timing required?
Some products are time sensitive - such as products for events or specific holiday sales.
- Any specific governmental regulations or certification requirements?
This can have effects on the product and how (or where) it is to be sold.
- Any legal concerns like patent infringement, or liability issues?
... Or possible patents to obtain?
- Any foreseeable manufacturing issues
Like cost / time / materials / size / weight / complexity / new processes?
I know.. its a lot - thats why (good) product development takes time. I started working on requirements in fall of 2017 and had them locked down after about two months. Some of my most productive problem solving and product focusing on Natus One was done during a trip to Sedona, AZ where I was fortunate to spend days hiking in mountains and red rocks. That gives time for reflection and I actually did some of the first sketching of what ended up as the final design after a two-hour hike to the top of the Bear Mountain Trail https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=55222 - luckily i had brought pen and pad along with water!
More in the next blog post...