What does a Product Development Specialist do?
A product development specialist is a person who is an expert at developing new products or reworking old products that are used in her field of expertise. For example, someone who does this job for a skin care company would work to create new products, incorporate new skin care ingredients or popular skin care ingredients into her company's product line, or retool the formula of old products in order to make them more effective. This product specialist may learn that using green tea in skin care products has become very popular. In response to the popularity of this ingredient, a specialist in the skin care industry might work to create a lines of products or just one product that incorporated green tea.
In most cases, a product development specialist is a person who has had a great deal of experience or training in the field for which she is developing products. Someone in the skin care industry might have spent years working in the field of skin care either as a aesthetician or dermatologist. Also, she might have worked on a product development team that was overseen by another product specialist.
In order to be able to specialize in a certain kind of products, one must spend a great deal of time becoming familiar with those products, which often requires years of training and experience. In addition to on-the-job training, this person might also decide to take extra courses and attend conferences and seminars to increase her knowledge base about the products in the field. As such, she will be more prepared to become a product development specialist.
Many industries employ specialists to develop products. In addition to the examples involving the skin care industry, there are also those who work on designing new bicycles, who work to create new lines of clothing and accessories for department stores, and who work to develop new flavors of beer, to name just a few examples. Depending on the size of the company that the specialist is working for — or, in some cases, the size of the industry itself — a product development specialist might work on her own or might work at the head of a large team. She might be responsible for the development of just a few products or dozens of products per year.
@Mammmood - I believe that everything discussed so far is valid, but let’s address the more “tangible” products – like cars, which you mentioned.
When a company decides to go out on a limb and develop a hybrid car, they’re not exactly responding to a huge demand, if sales of these vehicles are any indication. What they’re trying to do is be on the leading edge of products that they think will better society.
Customers may or may not be willing to jump on the bandwagon at first, but these companies are demonstrating leadership and believe over time they will win the minds of consumers.
In this case, they’re not being driven purely by marketing forces; the company is defining what true value is, and leading customers gently along the way.
@MrMoody - You’re exactly right. That’s why many companies do a lot of prototype development first. If it is software, like you mentioned, the equivalent would be a beta software product.
During this time the company has one concern: to get feedback from the customer. They want to know if this is what the customer really wants. All the solicited opinions are fed back into the life cycle development of the new product, at every stage, to ensure that it’s exactly what the user requested.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Value, as you implied, is something that the customer ascribes to the product. After all, we’re not selling precious metals. Many times we’re selling things that are information products, things that are less tangible than houses or cars; but to the customer, they are worth paying money for.
@hamje32- I agree completely, but I think your concern raises a larger point – what is it that gives a new “product” value?
For example, in the industry that I work in, software development, a lot of our products are driven by customer requirements. Many times our customers will see features that they’ve seen in other software products, and they want those features incorporated into our software.
Therefore our new product development methodology must not only incorporate our own ideas of what we think would be a hot software product, but the customer’s expectations as well. Sometimes we wind up with a software solution that appears to be nothing more than a knock-off of some existing product.
Unfortunately, that’s the way the business world works. You’re not always trying to create a better mousetrap. You’re just trying to give customers what they want, and so marketing plays a strong role in that.
I think some new product development is just a rehashed version of an existing product line; the merits of the products are somewhat questionable. One line of products where I’ve had strong suspicions is vitamins.
I’m not knocking vitamins – I take them myself – but because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, just about anyone can create their own vitamins. You can find suppliers who will provide and package the base ingredients; you just need to tell them what you want, in how many quantities, and they will put the pills together for you.
As a matter of fact, I once read of this guy who made a lot of money in direct mail order by selling vitamins. He had no medical or nutritional background, but he knew where to get suppliers, and more importantly, he knew how to sell.
I think it’s important to watch out who you buy your products from, especially when you’re dealing with nutritional supplements.
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