Product development is never done for its own sake, but is always done as part of a business of some kind, whether it is a question of market pull or technology push.
The figure shows the principal requisites for product development
At time A there is identified, or prognosticated, a business opportunity at time B. The market value varies over time (the solid curve) for the product that was identified at A to have a market potential at B. There are several possibilities.
In all three cases time is important. We must have the right tempo! The product must be made available to the market at the right time with as much as possible of the qualities that users value and appreciate.
- A < B, as in the figure. This case requires looking into the future, to predict/guess what the market will look like. We have an uncertainty that must be handled by flexibility and adjustment (reorientation) to shifting circumstances. There is uncertainty about market potential, if the product can be technically realized at the right cost, about end price to customer, etc. All this taken together makes it impossible to plan the project work in any detail since we here enter unknown territory.
- A = B. Now we are in a hurry if we want to capitalize on the opportunity.
- A > B. Market has been there for some time and one or several actors are active on the market.
Often the products success depends completely on company "time to market" ability. As hinted by the broken curves in the figure, both sales volume and profit is strongly reduced by delayed market introduction.
Since product development often is performed in projects it is customary in textbooks to introduce a model called the project triangle that can look like the figure to the right. There is always time in one corner; budget in another and in the third there may stand quality, function or result. Then it is stressed that one cannot have it all; one or two corners will have to be scarified more or less.
After the previous discussion of product development and its prerequisites, I hope that you see how poorly the project triangle metaphor performs. A more truthful picture of reality is shown in the figure that shows how business opportunity drives the process.
Business puts demands on time (time to market, competitors activities, etc), and technology must deliver a product with the functions required by the business opportunity.
Technology in its turn makes demands on time, since it takes time to develop a product and the budget must suffice for the technical development that the business requires.
Limitations in time and budget balance and decide how technology and business develops.
The situation is further complicated in the figure to the right that shows that technology choice (and knowledge) affects cost, time of delivery and product characteristics.
The figure below complicates the situation even further by introducing a feedback from budget & time to business opportunity. It is possible to add additional feedbacks. This hints at the complexity of product development.
The so-called "project triangle" is a poor model for product development.
As much better model is shown below.