To keep ahead of the market, you need to check that you're meeting customer needs and anticipate what customers may require in future. The key to this process is research, design and development, whether you sell goods or provide services.
You can do your own research, design and development in-house or outsource it to external contractors. For more information, see internal research and development and external research and development.
The role of research in the design and development process
Research is the initial stage that involves assessing the current and future needs of customers and suppliers - asking for their views and feedback and carrying out market research. See more about market research and market reports.
Once you understand customers' needs and your marketplace, you can identify:
- modifications to your product or service
- new, commercially viable products or services
- improvements to business processes that will benefit customers
Your research will reveal ideas and markets for potential new products or services. The development process tests these ideas, demonstrates whether they are achievable and helps turn your ideas into reality.
Design and development
The design and development process should examine all the potential risks and hurdles you will need to overcome to get the product to market. For example, it should look at whether the product meets a market need and whether it will sell at the price needed to make profit. It involves defining the specification and the design of your product or service through drawings, models or prototypes.
Good project management often affects the success of the design and development project. You should map out deadlines for completion of key stages. At the end of each phase you should review progress and decide whether to proceed. Read more about project management. You'll also need to put appropriate resources in place and consider factors such as price and demand.