Product Planning vs Trial & Error

There appears to be two very distinct points of view when it comes to delivering new products and services to market.

One camp adheres to creating extensive product plans that lay out what the company intends to do from now till the next 3 – 5 years. Their product plans may include some financial analysis that make a certain number of assumptions of how the market may react to the product or service.

There is another camp that argues there is no point planning simply because we are unable to predict what the market wants. The speed of which the market changes as well makes it difficult to plan. Instead to create new products and services that the market highly desires, they say test the idea or the concept through prototypes or by releasing a version of the product with just the ‘right amount’ of features. If the product doesn’t take flight, companies have not wasted valuable resources planning and developing. Further, lessons are learnt from failure which can be carried through to the next new idea.

For my part, I think its great that there are fierce debates about ways for companies to be successful in its product development and delivery endeavors.

Neither, in my opinion, is the ‘only’ way forward. There is merit in planning and anticipating what the market may want. However, planning need not consume whole business teams for lengthy periods. And… companies should NOT have to live or die by their plans. Plans should be flexible and should steer businesses through various challenges. Assumptions made whilst planning can also be tested in market before any activity commences.

There is also significant merit prototyping and releasing a minimum viable product to understand the opportunities for success. Foresight about consumer problems and needs and how these can be solved will be gained through this process.

What challenges my thinking is the need for groups of people to vehemently adopt one method over the other. This means that good process and tools are discarded when in fact, different situations call for us to choose one over the other.