Product lifecycle management involves the process a product must go through to become a tangible, complete product offered for sale to an end user or consumer. There are four phases or stages to the product lifecycle management process: conceive, design, realize and service. These phases may be handled or overseen by one main individual in charge of the product — called the product manager or the project manager — or may be handled by different departments and divisions within a business.
The first stage of the product lifecycle management process involves coming up with the general idea for the creation of a product. This may be done by a research and development department or by individuals working in the company who are tasked with coming up with new potential products for sale. The product may be conceived of as a supplement or addition to an existing product line, or may be a new product line. Generally, the conception of an idea involves brainstorming for solutions to a problem, or identifying an unmet demand in the market which a given product can meet.
Once the idea for a product is conceived, the actual physical product itself must be designed; this is the next stage in the product lifecycle management process. Many different departments of a company can work together on this process. Engineers can work on the logistics of designing a product, making sure the product will work and be functional and that all the pieces will fit together so it can actually be made. A marketing department, on the other hand, may focus on the physical design of the product and making it look appealing to consumers who will then wish to buy the product.
After the design process is complete, the next step on the product lifecycle management process is to actually understand how to create the product. This stage is referred to as the stage in which the product is realized. Often, this involves defining how a product will be manufactured and arranging for its manufacture. The company may assemble the parts and tools or may contract out the assembly of the given product.
The final stage of the product lifecycle management cycle is service. During this stage, those who will act as support staff for the product are trained and taught how it is used. For example, authorized repair people may be taught how to fix and perform maintenance on the product. Customer service or tech support people may be educated on how to answer questions regarding the product.