Who Are the People Who Work in Product Development?

27.09.2017 |

Episode #2 of the course Product development 101 by Jeff Brunski


This lesson is meant to give you a frame of reference for who works in product development. I find that just describing these roles gives people a much clearer idea of the development process.

Strategy Team: This is the team with strategic decision-making authority. Strategy is about making specific choices to win in the marketplace. It’s about deliberately choosing a different set of activities than competitors to deliver unique value to customers and consumers. Developing a product should be an activity that fulfills a strategic purpose, so the Strategy team often establishes the context and goals for a product development effort.

Marketing: Marketing’s primary function is to understand the overall market, market segments, and customers. These folks manage the “Four P’s of Marketing”: Product, Price, Promotion, and Placement (distribution). Marketing is typically responsible for identifying product opportunities and helping specify the product, and they often oversee product launch.

Research and Development or Engineering: In a product company, R&D is typically the team tasked with identifying new technologies and actually developing products. Sometimes it’s the engineering team building products (especially in software), but that’s not universal across all industries.

Design: This is a discipline focusing on product aesthetics, ergonomics, and user experience (UX). There is industrial design (more focused on function), graphic design (more focused on visually communicating a message), and a few other varieties.

Product Manager: This person is the CEO of the product, often the center of the wheel for all these other various teams. They are responsible for advocating for the consumer within the product team.

Others: There are many other roles—manufacturing, testing, quality, operations, etc. Too much to cover in one short post, but they are still integral to the process.

Below is an example product that everyone is familiar with and the people who would be responsible for developing it.


Product Example: Smartphone

Strategy: Decides that the company is going to sell smartphones in Asia and grow that business segment toward a certain revenue target over the next five years.

Marketing: Determines specifics about the product, e.g. retail price is $199, target consumer is non-professionals, the smartphone must be more durable and last longer than competitor products, etc.

R&D: Builds and tests prototypes and engineers the device (computing power, batteries, antennae, materials, etc.) and software.

Design: Designs the size, shape, and color of the device; may design software for usability; and may design physical user interfaces (i.e. one button or many).

Product Manager: Coordinates all these various groups (“I need software ready for a prototype test in July!”) and provides voice-of-the-consumer guidance (“These users care more about web browsing than editing documents on the phone”).

This should give you a better idea of not just who is involved with product development but also the types of tasks each of these teams performs.

Coming up in Lesson 3: identifying opportunities!


Recommended book

Revolutionizing Product Development by Steven C. Wheelwright and Kim B. Clark


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