Step 2: Help Everyone Collaborate on Product Development


To develop and deliver great products specifically designed for a specific customer, you should follow four key steps.

There have countless books, software apps and companies that have been created to help improve product development. However, while most companies have done a good job in improving how hardware engineers, software developers, quality and manufacturing should work together, there has been much less focus on how companies should work with their customers to develop custom products. Once a customer has submitted their product requirements, how do you work with them to refine their requirements, coordinate updates and get their approvals? Many companies will do weekly status calls and email correspondence with their customers, but those methods are cumbersome and ad hoc at best.


To improve product development, most companies have focused only on Engineering — and have left out many other stakeholders required for product success.


All those best practices, software apps and processes that apply to internal product development should be extended whenever possible to customers as well. As you develop products, it’s important to keep customers in the loop, as real-time as possible, so development can be faster, products can be more on target, and customers can be happier. Some considerations for customer involvement include:
  • Product updates: systems like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) have been used to keep engineering groups in sync, but those same capabilities should extend to customers, so they can participate in the development process. After all, the product is being made for them in the first place. You should allow customers to be able to do product redlines, create revisions, update files, etc.
  • Tasks and timelines: Project Portfolio Management (PPM) systems have been used to a greater degree with customers than PLM to keep everyone on the same page with respect to timelines and tasks. However, the separation of PPM from PLM has typically caused lower productivity, potential errors and communication issues. For successful custom development, you need to make sure that project tasks, timelines, product updates, and deliverables are all tied together.
Get everyone on the same page by allowing them to see product updates, tasks and deliverables in one place.
  • Collaboration, approvals and notifications: of course, it’s critical to ensure customers and every other stakeholder gets prompt notifications when things change or when they need to approve changes. Threaded discussions are also a great way to discuss things with customers in a much more rapid and informal fashion as well.

Stay tuned for a future post on steps 3 and 4, or download the full whitepaper “4 Steps to Creating Great Products for Each of Your Customers.” And of course, for more info, visit

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Miguel Tam

Miguel Tam

May 12, 2016