The key to a successful product development project lies in clearly identifying the problem, the solution, and the customer.
Very often, probably more often than most companies would like to admit, when they approach the development of a new product there is a lot of fanfare, excitement, and momentum surrounding the kickoff. If its a very cool idea, it can be almost impossible to restrain folks from moving forward too quickly. I have seen many projects start with great ideas and lots of hoopla that end up dying a painful death precisely because of all that early enthusiasm. How can we keep development on track from the very beginning?
Have a clear idea of what you will build, who will use the product, and what they will use it for. Don't rush into developing something before you have laid the proper groundwork.
Laying the Groundwork
You are developing a bolt that will fasten the wing of an airplane to the fuselage. It must be engineered in such a way that it continues to hold the wing on the fuselage while the plane is at 40,000 feet and carrying 235 passengers. Your requirements are going to be different if you are designing a bolt that will hold two pieces of wood together to form an artist's easel. These are ridiculous extremes but the point is the bolt for the easel will not need to same hardening, tensile strength, torque capacity, and reliability as the airplane bolt. The requirements of the aircraft manufacturer will be entirely different than the customer painting at the seaside.
Actually - does the fastener even need to be a bolt? Maybe it could be some other form of attachment mechanism. Saying that it will be a bolt will actually limit your options and could pigeon-hole the solution you ultimately bring to market.. You can better say - I need to attach a wing to a fuselage for my customer or I need to have a flexible attachment mechanism for the artist.
I want to develop a content management system:
Developing a real time content delivery mechanism that allows for continuous integration of gigabytes of data into a tool that allows an end-user who relies on that data to properly evaluate, manage, and conduct investment transactions worth billions of dollars daily is vastly different than developing a system that drives content on an occasional basis to a dieting website with about 100 users.
You can see how the risks and the requirements will differ. So, be clear about the problem you're solving and who the customer is from the very beginning and make that your guiding light.
Clearly and concisely define the customer, the solution, and the problem
Try to boil down the concept and customer down into one clear statement.
Getting more detail
Once you hone in on the X, Y, and Z you can start elaborating and working the top delivery points. These are the major points that need to be fulfilled if you are going to have a satisfied customer.
Document your intentions
It is very important to document these details and go back to them often when you get into the weeds of development. Every project is not the same and each project deserves careful consideration and definition from the outset. I have seen many projects fail for lack of a clear vision.
I am an artist, an analyst, a researcher, and an online development specialist serving the online information industry.