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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Product Development - some of the project planning related steps - Requirements gathering contd..

Typically, when a new project or new version is being conceptualized, the actual product development is not kicked off until senior management / executives have had a chance to review the requirements identified for the release and get a sense of assurance that the features planned for the release fulfil certain conditions. This typically is handled in a kickoff meeting where the set of requirements / features is presented to the management, and where management can quiz the product managers with a series of questions until they are satisfied. It happens many times that the product management team is sent back to the drawing board with some feature changes or tweaks to the existing feature. This meeting is typically called a Product Requirements Review, and is managed by the Product Management team. It goes without saying that the more important the product to the overall revenue and future of the company, the more involved is this meeting. The questions are harder, the research and data needs to be more thoroughly done, and the presentation needs to be reviewer before-hand so that the flow of the presentation can be maintained.
What are the items that are typically validated in such a meeting:
1. These additional features are such that customers must be ready to pay for the product version or the new product
2. Management also needs to see other features that were planned but not being executed in this cycle because of time constraints (the second tier of features)
3. Management needs to get a preview of existing competitor features as well as new proposed features
4. Data that is available from the field (including existing customer reports - enhancement needs and complaints) both help in this kind of presentation, and give a perspective of how current customer satisfaction levels are
5. Pricing for the products (including enhanced pricing, update pricing for customers wanting to upgrade from earlier versions, volume pricing) needs to be decided and validated. This will include strategies for trials (where users can try either a limited set of features without the software timing out, or try out the full feature set for a limited period of time)
6. Deals with partners are also presented in such a meeting. This includes the pricing if bundling is done with computer hardware OEM's, or packaged with installers of other products (example, when anti-virus trial downloads are available along with Yahoo / Google toolbar downloads, and Google toolbar is also downloaded with other products)
7. The timing of the release is also an important factor in this whole discussion; given that product release timing is extremely important - after all, if you have a consumer game product, it would need to be released so that it can catch the Christmas buying season.

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