10 Most Common Product Development Challenges

Editor’s note: the following was written by a guest blogger. If you would like to contribute to the blog, please contact ellen@productschool.com

As a product manager or business owner, developing a product from scratch can present several unprecedented challenges. This role involves coming up with a market viable product without leading the company into the loss column.

But that’s not even half of the problems: PMs now have to face the rigors of a fast-paced marketplace. They must adapt to changing consumer trends to maximize customer satisfaction and product performance.

In this article, we detail the challenges faced by PMs when working on a new product initiative.

1. Ideation 

The first checkpoint in product development is idea generation. As easy as it sounds,  some companies often hit idea roadblocks when making decisions. Sometimes, these obstacles result from a lack of actionable intel on the potential product and the consumer. Other times, ideation can stall due to bureaucracy and disjointed workflows.

However, PMs can avoid this staleness in ideation by creating suggestion bins during brainstorming sessions. Use this repository to gather interesting opinions from team members and other product specialists. 

If possible, establish a bonus system to reward team members with the most lucrative ideas. This reward system will motivate the staff to participate in the brainstorming initiatives actively.

Upper management should also allow their underlings to participate in brainstorming sessions before the development process commences. Overall, PMs should take responsibility for research to discover what others are doing and identify gaps to exploit.

2. Market viability

An idea might sound good on paper, but the practical application in the marketplace just lacks any financial promise. As a PM, always analyze a product’s market viability before development starts.

Market research will give you information about the competition and the audience. Don’t create a product because all your competitors are doing the same thing. Even if you want to go down the same route, focus on novelties to attract users.

Apart from analyzing the competition, PMs need to gather information from the target audience. Since these people are the product’s potential consumers, you need to collect their opinions and interests.

Use the information from the market research to create a minimum viable product (MVP). Highlight the product’s core features and the benefits to consumers. Don’t create a simple prototype with only one feature: this is one of the common MVP misconceptions. Add as many functionalities to give the investor or consumer a clear portrait of the product.

3. Product roadmap problems

Creating a product is a head-scratcher for PMs who lack extensive development experience. Some PMs often lack the proper tools to curate a product strategy efficiently.  And this slows down the entire process.

Besides, experienced PMs can struggle to manage the product roadmap even with a clear vision and plan. They often grapple with roadmap prioritization to get the best out of the initiative.

In these tough cases, you can prioritize by the KPIs or OKRs. You can also use the MoSCoW model for your product based on the following:

  • Must-haves
  • Should haves
  • Could haves
  • Will not haves

This model will save you a lot of time spent on brain-racking to choose the best strategy. You can also use management tools like Gantt Charts to create an optimized product roadmap.

Figuring out how to build the perfect roadmap? Here’s your template for that!

4. Workflow management

The synergy between collaborating teams affects the development speed and quality of the final product. As a product manager, getting every contributor on the same page is your responsibility. 

This process often involves communication with every member of the organization at the same time. You also have to resolve conflicts between independent teams in the absence of a team lead. 

So, use workflow management tools like Jira and Trello to organize the operations surrounding the product. Create a centralized dashboard to track product contributors and task completion progress. And with most teams working remotely at the moment, you need a more data-intensive monitoring system to track staff performance.

Also, make sure that everyone in the company (with relevant clearance) has access to information. You can also establish a fast-paced feedback loop. And most importantly, deliver regular updates to C-level executives for their input.

5. Product engineering issues

Engineering dependencies also hinder the progress of product initiatives. For instance, if you want to create an app, and the design team misses the deadline, the entire development team has to wait until a prototype is ready for review. 

Product managers can solve these problems by establishing a clear review cycle that features members of interdepartmental teams. Besides, they can also try to identify other non-dependent initiatives and work on them while the gridlock is resolved.

By implementing this tactic, PMs can rescue timelines and keep the product development on track.

person in blue shirt using black laptop computer

6. Pricing policy

Turning an idea into a product is one thing, but putting a price on it is a whole different ball game, especially if developing an agile methodology

If you charge too much for the product, nobody will buy it. If you charge a low price, you risk incurring massive losses. So, it is all about finding that sweet balance in pricing for your consumers.

Part of your job as the product manager is to identify the maximum amount that your potential audience is ready to pay for the product.

From the company’s side, here are the crucial considerations when setting the pricing policy for a product:

  1. Hiring expenses
  2. Marketing expenses
  3. Product realization costs

Apart from the factors above, you also need to consider market volatility when fixing an initial price. You can also establish a cost estimate by analyzing the competitors’ pricing policies.

That’s why you need to master skills and understanding of lean product development.

7. The pace of innovation

The exponential pace of innovation is also driving the speed of change in the marketplace. This problem is prevalent in companies that have slow-paced review and feedback cycles.

While your ideas are stuck in the bureaucracy, new trends appear to render these suggestion silos redundant. To avoid these worries, refresh your idea dumps regularly to eliminate defunct ones. 

Instead of maintaining rigid development cycles, allow some flexibility to make room for innovations like artificial intelligence and augmented reality. But you should avoid making wholesale changes mid-way into the development initiative.

8. Time-to-market

Your company’s ability to meet deadlines and launch timelines will determine the product’s market positioning. PMs should fine-tune operations to ensure that everything goes according to the established timeline. 

Although all the issues mentioned earlier affect the overall time-to-market, some roadblocks can stall the development process significantly. While PMs have no control over some of these obstacles, others result from gross incompetence within a company.

Here are common issues that can affect time to market:

  • Unforeseen circumstances

The great elephant in the room is the COVID-19 pandemic. Most companies had to overhaul their entire workforce management to address the changes. Some businesses like Hotels.com had to abandon products to accommodate the financial impacts of the pandemic.

  • Legacy systems

Legacy systems are often cheap to maintain, but their unpredictability makes them a liability in the product development cycle. If your legacy software malfunctions, it can set back the company by a few months.

  • Hiring delays

Poor recruitment policies can slow down a product’s launch timeline significantly. For instance, onboarding new designers to work on a prototype can slow down the design process. And since most companies are not ready for teleworking, they will struggle to train new hires and meet deadlines.

To stay ahead of these headaches, always have a contingency plan for when things go awry. This strategy will help your company survive massive scares and meet its quarterly targets.

Here, the question of product promotion may appear as well. A product manager in collaboration with the marketing team should think of promo options. There might be single strategies like starting a blog and SEO in favor or combined efforts, e.g., content + email marketing + PR tactics, and so on.

However, your company should never sacrifice ultimate quality to decrease the time to market. Bringing a poor quality product to the market will damage your company’s reputation and estrange you from your consumers.

So, set objectives for every development stage and ensure that every member can visualize these goals in real-time.

  • Compliance issues

With the influx of new products into the marketplace, regulatory bodies are now more strict on compliance and standards of quality.

For example, Google banned the Parler app for promoting illegal activity on its platform. This ban highlights the strictness and ever-changing industry standards and regulations.

But your company can avoid compliance issues by following the updated guidelines for every product before it enters the development stage. PMs should also encourage teams to download industry-regulated templates for every product initiative.

  • Post-launch improvement

The product’s life cycle does not end after the product launch. You still need to plan updates and provide customer support. 

Product team working on launch

Organize outreach campaigns to expand your audience to a global audience. Use bulk email services to inform your users about new product features and sales promo. Dedicate a virtual phone system to address customer service issues. And ultimately, create user manuals for your products.

Final words

Every company faces multiple challenges throughout a product’s life cycle. But an experienced product manager can identify these problems and address them early. 

Conduct research and generate market-worthy initiatives for the product. Use the ideas to create an MVP and seek approval from upper management. 

Streamline the workflow with management tools to improve the pace of the process. And if possible, create a conflict-resolution model to address dependencies in product engineering.

Ultimately, pay attention to market volatility when setting a price for your product. And don’t forget to check product compliance standards regularly.

By addressing these product development challenges, you will develop a market-viable product within the specified timeline.

About Author

Dmytro Railsware

Dmytro Zaichenko is a Marketing Specialist at Railsware, a product studio helping people build great products. He has more than 6 years of experience in content making. Apart from writing and networking, he’s passionate about basketball, music, and poetry.

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