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If you follow our content, you might have heard us mention the importance of a having a defined product development process once or twice…OK, maybe a little more often than that. We think it is single handedly the most important part of product development.

But why, I hear you ask? Surely, if you have a pretty good idea of where you are going, you can get there without too much disruption…I mean, Robin Sharma said “sometimes you have to get off track to discover a better track”. There must be something in that, right? Well, Robin Sharma may be a respected humanitarian author, but he isn’t a product developer.

In theory, you could fudge your way through product development, but it will be by no means a straightforward, cost-effective linear path to success. It would be like going to the supermarket without really understanding what you’re planning to cook, therefore without a recipe or list of ingredients. You may get there in the end, but chances are, you will probably have to revisit aisles you’ve already been down, spend twice as much money on things you don’t need, and you’ll definitely forget a vital ingredient (sending you back to the supermarket). Either way, it’ll take twice as long, you’ll spend twice as much, and the result would probably leave Gordon Ramsey muttering expletives.

So, trust us when we say you need a development plan. But what are the key steps? To explain this further, I’m going to use a slightly different analogy, which aligns more closely with product development.

Grand Designs

Most of us have watched Grand Designs and have cringed through 45 minutes of somebody bodging their house together, Kevin McCloud shaking his head at the process, then with vast amounts of help somehow moving into an often incomplete, yet admittedly impressive house. However, the general theme is that they spend more than 50% of their original budget, their timeline is usually doubled, and they often get help. Why is this? Because building a house doesn’t involve just placing bricks in place and hoping for the best. This is also true for product development (however, there are fewer caravans and Kevin McCloud is rarely present). So, let’s discuss some of the synergies!

Planning and project management

The planning stage is potentially the most crucial step in the entire programme. You wouldn’t build a house without architects’ drawings, full schematics, and a schedule of works. You would need blueprints showing where the electrics and plumbing should be and planning permission to ensure the whole process is allowed in the first place.

The same principle applies to product development. By creating a project plan, you can gain full visibility of your entire process, from concept generation through to manufacture and market launch. This visibility is priceless as allows you to factor in any requirements and roadblocks, which you may encounter along the way. You can thoroughly plan resources, timelines, funding schedules and inclusions such as usability testing.

The result should be a fully managed, rigorous development process designed to manage risk, cost and time effectively. Each element should then incorporate systematic testing, verification, quality control, detailed documentation, and should be underpinned by clear, direct communication. At eg, we will tailor this step to our client and their individual needs and target market.

Underpinning all of the above is a meticulous project manager. There are a lot of moving parts in product development, as with house construction, and each has to be well-managed. It is incredibly hard to project manage your own programme subjectively, especially when you are naturally keen to accelerate your route-to-market. However, an experienced project manager will take the stress out of managing the numerous stakeholders, processes and suppliers in your programme and will ensure your project is delivered on time and within budget.


As mentioned, a common occurrence in Grand Designs is the part where the hard-working, well-intentioned family run out of money; generally, because they have had to allocate funds to an unforeseen issue.

Well, surprise surprise this also happens quite a lot with new product innovation. It is really important to get a good bearing on how your project is going to be funded from the start. Some start-ups use personal savings, loans from friends and family and crowdfunding to finance their project, others go down the investment or grant funding route. There is no right or wrong answer to how projects should be funded, but the key is to have a secure financial plan in place, which is interlaced with your overall project plan. It is important to create a detailed budget, factoring in the risk of additional costs or operational delays and create mitigation strategies so that each eventuality is considered. It is worth also factoring in a contingency, for any unforeseen scenarios which eluded your initial risk analysis.

At eg, our clients range from start-ups to multinational organisations, so we tailor our service to meet project requirements, plan spend meticulously and work with our clients to ensure their projects are delivered on time and within budget. We also factor in any grant funding requirements and can use our depth of understanding and proven programme management tools to help you to spot gaps in your application.

Risk management and regulations

I’m not sure I have ever seen an episode of Grand Designs where something doesn’t go wrong. Either the initial groundworks uncover an issue, snow stops play for a few weeks or they don’t factor in key inspection milestones, where building control have to come and ensure that building works carried out are compliant to regulations. By not conducting an initial risk assessment and going through the correct processes, they don’t allow for the required solutions and often have to carry out abortive works, impacting the budget and timescale of the build.

Managing risk is a vital part of product design and development, and should feature heavily in your planning stage of product development. Unforeseen issues can be costly, so it is important to try to identify these at the start of your programme and create a plan through which they are mitigated. It also allows you to plan in actions which will ensure your development is compliant to the regulations at the relevant stages. Without outlining the key project milestones which will affect your critical path, you cannot incorporate risks and a contingency through which you mitigate them.

At eg, we focus on technical risk – reducing the chance of the product not working properly, to avoid harming the user or patient. However, as mentioned, project risk – things that could go wrong and cost money or create delays in your product getting to market – is equally important. Working within a quality framework will ensure your development doesn’t miss the key regulatory milestones and as such ensure you are developing the best product in accordance with the required regulations.

Market knowledge and commercialisation

Market knowledge and commercialisation is where my Grand Designs analogy comes somewhat unstuck as most people spend a fortune on their forever home but aren’t looking to sell it on afterwards. However, if you were developing a house with the view of selling it on (think Love it or List it!), you would need to know about the local market. There is no point spending more on your refurb than the house is worth. Do people want to live in the area? Is it a good investment? Will people like the layout and decor? It’s crucial to know your market.

Surprisingly, the commercial aspect of product development is often also overlooked. Every product development plan should include resource for market assessment, competitor analysis, route-to-market planning, marketing strategy and business development. Are you providing a solution to a problem that actually exists? Does the market need a new device? Are there any competing devices already on the market? Who are your competitors? Where will your device be sold? Fully integrating your commercial (or clinical, in the case of medical devices) pathway into your overall programme plan will maximise your chances of success. Usability and human factors are interlaced throughout our development programmes, so although this converges with market assessment, we ensure user requirements are specified early and addressed throughout the development.

Collaboration and expert help

If you can name an episode of Grand Designs where somebody builds their house completely alone, I will eat my hat (disclosure: I am not wearing one). Specialist help is always drafted in and rightly so. Uncle John may be extremely gifted in bricklaying, but this does not make him a specialist in plumbing or architecture; there are times when expert help is needed.

This is the same for product development. By leveraging the engineering experience of a development partner, who is already geared up to turn innovation into real marketable products you not only gain access to experienced engineers but also to established processes, knowledge of the development pathway and regulatory experts. Having this expertise integrated into a development will not only provide momentum, but also save on the cost and complexity of sourcing, integrating, and operating a ’best of breed’ solution.

At eg, we may not be property construction experts, but we know product design and development inside out. So, if you’re looking for some help in realising your grand design, please save your property woes for Kevin McCloud, but get in touch if you need help transforming your product development journey. We’d be happy to help!

For more information or to chat with one of our team about your product design and development requirements, please do not hesitate to get in touch:

Via email on, by giving us a call on +44 01223 813184, or by clicking here.