Product life cycle is linked to creativity, invention, and insight – a method, a discipline, and a formal process followed by a company from the initial conception of an idea till the market launch of the physical product.

According to Michael McGrath (in Next Generation Product Development), conscious focus on the development process began late in the 19th century, and in the 21st century, the emphasis has shifted to R&D-based development. There is a definite, recognizable, and irrefutable five-stage pattern in the life of every product, be it a successful one or not. 

Let’s start with a closer look at the five product lifecycle stages before discussing the framework and its applicability.

Stage 1. Development 

This stage depicts the transition of an idea into a usable product. 

Bringing new innovative products to life is fraught with uncertainties, for it is an attempt to either meet an existing need or create demand. 

The pertinent need for accelerated feedback on the relevance of the product under development is evidenced by most products that waited to evolve (in all respect) before being introduced to the market resulting in disastrous outcomes.

The focus is on developing prototypes, a minimum viable product to test product effectiveness, and product launch strategies.

There is a need for a legal team to support regulatory requirements and product liability risks early on. Legal review, especially around IP rights, needs to be taken on earlier in the design process.

Budgets allocation to conduct and publish early consumer research and create the buzz around the new product is needed. The marketing goal includes reestablishing brand awareness and reputation.

The need for identifying the quality and compliance regulations set by government bodies is paramount because of its impact on product development, time-to-market, and cost implications.

Generating traceability from requirements to design to testing apart from data and reports supporting relevant trials is imperative for regulatory compliance and subsequent approval.

This stage required budgets allocated towards identifying supply chains, vendors, and other relevant partners.

Stage 2. Introduction 

The introduction stage starts when the product increment gets the go-ahead and is subsequently released to the market. 

The introduction stage is the high-stakes time in the entire product life cycle, not necessarily indicating the make or break of the product’s eventual cycle.

In this stage, the company is first able to understand how the more significant market responds to the product, its acceptance, and its success.

It is prudent to get a legal clearance and confirmation that any risk associated with the launch is tolerable and memorialize why the product does not infringe any identified patents.

There is a need to ensure that IP protections are in place. There may be a need for foreign protection if the product is launched or accessed across geographies. A deliberate focus is needed to perfect trademark, patent, trade secret, and copyrights as appropriate.

The organization invests heavily in marketing and promotions, the scaling of supply chains, and various partners’ onboarding to generate demand and get the product to every customer in the introduction stage. 

Stage 3. Growth

The arrival of the growth phase is when the product concept is proven, the popularity is increasing with more customers taking to the product, and there is a significant spurt in the sales.

With the product’s popularity, the market grows, and so does the competition. Competitors start offering their equivalent solutions. 

The organization continues to invest heavily in advertising and promotions to outperform the competitors. 

With the market growing, the sales also increase, so investments to improve the supply chain and partner networks to support the growth are also high. There is a need for investment in setting up and scaling up support services too.

Investments also happen to continuously update the product to improve functions and features and keep it relevant.

Generating relevant data and reports needed for continued strict compliance with the regulations laid out by the laws of the land and other government bodies remains vital even in this stage.

The legal system continuously monitors and protects IP, trademark, copyright violations with continuing competitor proliferation.

Stage 4. Maturity

The aggressive growth phase will, at one point, get to market saturation when the product (or its competition) has taken its place within the target customer segment. 

At this stage, price competition becomes intense and needs a very different emphasis on competing effectively. 

The maturity stage necessitates investments to make finer differentiation in the product and associated services to establish leadership.

Legal and compliance continue to be relevant in safeguarding the interest of the product and the organization.

Stage 5. Decline

The markets change, customer expectations also change, and the maturity stage tapers off and consequently does end, indicating the fifth stage – market decline. With the decline in demand, the prices and margins shrink. 

The organization attempts to extend the product lifecycle with newer marketing strategies, reduced pricing, adding new features to increase value proposition, or adjust brand proposition.

The organization might look to consolidate using mergers and acquisitions of similar players or possibly giving away the product to a more prominent player in the market. There is a need for renewed investments on the legal side at this stage.

These five product lifecycle stages indicate a definitive need to establish a product strategy, an economic model, and a roadmap linking strategy to execution.

Several components are involved in the success of a product, including but not limited to 
Enabling and nurturing of innovative ideas, 
Creation of low-risk experiments, 
Making high-impact investment decisions that aligns strategy and execution
Building the right product, the right way at the right time
Putting together the right team that can adapt to change and grow
Creating a solid relationship with suppliers
Meaningful measures of progress

The SAFe Lean Startup Cycle and the scalable configurations with relevant competencies provide a comprehensive product lifecycle strategy based on an interdisciplinary approach.

SAFe provides the requisite knowledge, skills, behavior, practices, and an array of tools through the seven-core competency model of business agility to support an organization to achieve its business objectives by creating a perfect synchronization between Strategy and Execution.

Author's Bio

Preeth is a pragmatic coach, Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) & SAFe 5.0 Program Consultant (SPC 5.0) and is passionate about all things agile and leadership. With over 20+ years of experience and commitment, he trains and coach organizations to be agile and more importantly to stay agile. Preeth holds an enviable record of conducting over 10,000 hours of industry-specific training and coaching.