Product Development Methodologies and Conclusion

27.09.2017 |

Episode #10 of the course Product development 101 by Jeff Brunski


In our final lesson, we’ll wrap up the topic of product development with an overview of the different methodologies commonly used today.



Waterfall follows the process I’ve described in this course in a fairly linear, non-iterative way. It simply flows in one direction (like a waterfall, get it?), from identifying a product’s requirements to designing it, building it, verifying it, and launching it.

Waterfall is mainly best for products where making changes later in the development process is prohibitively expensive. It’s also preferred when you have a large number of teams bringing subcomponents together and coordination and planning are paramount.



Stage-Gate is basically like Waterfall, the key differentiator being that before you move into the next phase of development, a “gate” meeting is held. This is basically a careful evaluation to confirm that everything that should have been done up to this point in time has been done.

Stage-Gate is a very controlled approach to product development, which can be good and bad. It requires work to have all those gate meetings and to properly communicate status, but it also ensures coordination and reduces the risk of “getting ahead of yourself.”



Agile is a highly iterative, team-oriented approach. Used most often in the software industry, Agile places a huge emphasis on prototyping, build-measure-learn cycles, and gathering frequent feedback from customers. There is much less time and energy taken to spec the product, purely due to the reliance on prototyping and customer feedback to shape the final product. It has many of the same stages as Waterfall, but it’s definitely a different approach.

The major characteristic of Agile is the Sprint. Sprints are time-bound efforts toward a particular feature or product deliverable. Sprints help make Agile more effective at delivering a rapid, market-validated product (or new feature of a product), which is why you will see this approach touted by many in Silicon Valley. But it’s not exactly good for physical products, where iterative testing is more time consuming and expensive.



Lean development applies many of the lessons of lean manufacturing to product development. The approach aims to reduce waste—be it wasted time, energy, or resources. It’s about doing things in parallel, eliminating bottlenecks, making processes more efficient, and just plain working smarter instead of harder. Lean principles can be applied to any of the above methodologies.


Universal Elements

While these methodologies differ from one to the other, all share many common features that are truly universal to good product development everywhere:

1. Focus on the consumer and their needs.

2. Identify unique opportunities to deliver new value.

3. Properly explore possible product concepts.

4. Use prototyping and build-measure-learn cycles for learning.

5. Apply a systematic approach to launching your product.

Hopefully those all looked familiar!

It has been a pleasure delivering this course to you. Best of luck in building amazing products!


Recommended books

Winning at New Products by Robert Cooper

The Principles of Product Development Flow by Don Reinertsen


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