Posted by: bellaviaresearch | January 5, 2010

The proof is in the pudding: Research is a cornerstone of successful product development

As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, research is a cornerstone of successful product development.  This survey  of North American and European businesses conducted by McKinsey and MIT reveals what does and does not work in product development.

Businesses with the best track records for product development share three best practices:

1)    Clear articulation of project goals and scope

2)    Strong project culture (so employees know what their priorities are and managers are accountable for project success/failure)

3)    Research conducted throughout the design process, so key stakeholders are continually listening to customers and using their learning to guide informed product development.

According to the authors, “the successful innovators in our study kept in close contact with customers throughout the development process.”  This study revealed that 80% of top performing companies include research to test and validate customer needs throughout the development process. This figure is nearly twice as high as the 43% of bottom performers who utilize research.

In addition, this research confirms the importance of listening to customers early and often. Top performing innovators were two times as likely to start the product design process with a solid understanding of customer needs. This foundation enables innovators to identify and fix design issues early in the process, which is much more cost effective than identifying them and trying to resolve them later in the design process.

The proof is in the pudding: companies that embraced these three best practices for product design enjoyed he following payoffs:

–       17x more likely to deliver products on time

–       5x more likely to deliver products on budget

–       2x more likely to meet ROI targets

In my experience, companies are better served by listening to customers earlier in the design process. Even if you feel you “aren’t ready,” get in front of your target customers early with rough concepts or paper prototypes before you commit staff time and money heading the wrong design direction. It can be much more cost effective than waiting.

Early conceptual research focuses your team, limits scope creep, and enables you to respond to customer feedback when you are still nimble.

  • By listening to customers early, your product team is more likely to stay focused on what really matters to your customers.
  • You’ll also find less institutional resistance to change if your entire team starts out with a solid understanding of who they are designing for and what the customers want/need.
  • It’s much easier to erase lines on paper prototypes than it is to go back to the drawing board with coding.

It is surprising how many companies feel they “can’t afford” to slow the process with research.  Really, they can’t afford to skip it.

Want to talk about cost effective ways to include research in the product development cycle? or 831.454.8217.



  1. Interesting stuff. So, why do companies resist doing research? Why is it ever considered optional?

    Everyone considers themselves a market researcher with a sample size of N=1. Maybe it’s hubris?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: