Many product teams know the terms Agile, Waterfall, Iterative, Extreme and other development lifecycle mythologies but are less aware of a broader methodology using to drive the product itself and find themselves wondering what is a PLM solution? A PLM Solution is a product lifecycle management solution that helps product managers, product owners or founders go through the process of taking an idea from scratch all the way to the end. The PLM Solution does not focus on a specific implementation or release of changes for a product but instead focuses on the larger strategic planning on what phases you should work through to launch a product, grow it and plan for the future which could include the close out and end of life of the product.

Wondering still what is a PLM Solution? Let’s break the PLM or product lifecycle management stages down to start with a clear understanding of what tasks need to occur and in what order.

Stage 1: Conceive Your Product Idea

It is during the initial stage of the PLM Solution that someone notices a challenge, pain point, inconvenience or gap and a light goes off that perhaps there is a business opportunity here to solve it. As it should, new products come about by someone noticing a challenge and then realizing there has to be a better way to solve the problem. Great products always come about by identifying a pain point and what comes second is the solution to the problem. This way you know there is a true problem you are solving, not guessing that a product has a market with out understanding if the market agrees it is a problem.

During this stage of the product lifecycle management solution you should be able to know the problem, have an idea to solve the problem, and be able to articulate your solution at a high level. You should be able to validate your understanding of the pain points and talk over with potential users of your product that your solution would indeed solve a problem and bonus points if the potential customer agrees that they would pay money for the solution.

Stage 2: Design Your Solution

With a working understanding of the pain points and your solution, and customer validation on the concepts, it is time to start visually bring your product to life. This can come in a variety of formats. For example you can create a prototype during this stage which is not a full working version of the finishing product but enough to breathe life into the idea and start validating the implementation of the solution. Great ideas only go so far as the design around it. If you solve a problem but no one knows how to use it, you didn’t solve it. During this stage of the product lifecycle management you can quickly work up mock ups of the finished product and go through rounds of validations with your customers that the feature set being offered is sufficient, the flow and usability would be intuitive and that you are still on track with the solution.

There is no point in rushing into manufacturing a product or writing any lines of code until you have validated the pain points, confirmed your solution solves it and presented a prototype of your solution to save you the most amount of time and energy for your new product.

Stage 3: Realize your product

Now is the time to go build your product since you have validated your idea is a true business opportunity. During this stage you would execute your development lifecycle and this is where rounds of agile, waterfall, iterative, etc would take place to build out your product and deliver the features you had in your mock ups inclusive of the customer feedback on them. As with any product build out, this is your most expensive and time consuming part of the product management lifecycle as it now takes the idea and makes it real. This is where everyone sees their dream come reality but often make the mistake of jumping into this step without completing the product planning required to be successful which are included in Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the product lifecycle management.

This stage ends when your product is finished and ready to be launched. This should include your pricing model, your on boarding process, features, and all aspects of the product needed to launch and kick off growth mode of your business.

Stage 4: Maintain and grow your product

Launching your product is a major milestone for your company but it is not the end of the journey. The reality is that when your product is launched you start to get customer feedback on ways to improve it, the market you support changes or your competition increases. You need to be constantly working on your product to maintain and enhance it in the future and design a product roadmap that creates a long term vision of where you want the product to continue to grow and become. This is again where the drop off in true product management lifecycle occurs as many founders or product owners understand the initial pain point and their solution to solve it. To remain a relevant business however you need to look beyond that. How do you continue to add to the product so that it grows the business. What additional pain points in the related space can you solve? What changes can you make to increase adoption of your product? Why are people leaving your product and how can you keep them longer?

Once launched, the role of product manager becomes even more important to grow the product and business. To grow you need to innovate and expand the product to keep up with the space around you. This requires constant attention to your touch points for revenue and focusing on new opportunities to expand into. In Stage 4 of your product lifecycle management you are focusing on getting in growth mode and staying in growth mode for as long as possible.

Stage 5: Decline and sunset

At some point, most products reach an end of life it is a sad but true aspect of product management. Strong product management can keep your product and business in Stage 4 for a very long time however often even successful companies look at launching new products and sunsetting old products to breathe fresh life into the business as all things age and decline. New trends appear in how products are made and you may not always be able to keep up with them within the existing product offering. This does not mean the death  of the business, but the death of the product that launched the business and the launch of a new version of the product which would have gone through the same stages of product lifecycle management to replace the original to take the torch and grow beyond.

So what is a PLM Solution? It is a way of understanding product management is more than just developing a product. It is product planning to ensure you have the best chance of success. It is constantly looking at the space, your customer feedback and driving a product from concept to launch and growing it as far as possible to be the best product possible and last the longest possible in the market.