This product lifecycle guide describes a product lifecycle, the product lifecycle stages, and the skills you need to be a product lifecycle manager. Learn about courses to help you learn and demonstrate product lifecycle management knowledge.
Product lifecycle management is crucial to a product’s long-term success. It involves managing a product's design, development, deployment, sale, and support over its life.
The product lifecycle is the process of turning a product idea into reality through sales and marketing. The product lifecycle ends when a product is no longer viable and retired. The steps in the process vary by industry but follow a similar pattern.
Thinking of products as an ongoing process is to see that they are not a one-time event but rather a relationship. You typically build a product hoping that users will relate to it and purchase it. The process of building a product should be structured as a continuous feedback loop composed of smaller production processes. Every step impacts the product’s success and needs to form a part of the feedback loop.
Product lifecycle management (PLM) integrates processes, people, business systems, and information to have product guidance of an idea to production. In practice, all product-related information (technical specifications, production processes, orders, etc.) is managed and available to the correct people at the right times.
The goal of PLM is to create a single source for product data while integrating internal departments and external stakeholders in the design, engineering, and manufacturing process. PLM is used to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve collaboration.
The product lifecycle stages are the phases that a product goes through from its beginning to end. The following seven phases can be applied to the majority of physical or digital products.
This stage sets the goals for your new product’s accomplishment timeline and how they’ll be met. This involves researching the customers' needs, developing the product value proposition, and forming the outline of the product strategy.
A prototype is a preliminary version of an idea being developed. Prototypes allow products to be assessed and tested before release. This allows your future customers time to give feedback on product development, which helps ensure its success when launched.
During the development stage, your business may spend considerable time and resources creating a product that's ready for market release. The network of professionals involved in the project may expand to suppliers, product designers, engineers, and manufacturers.
The introduction is when you launch your new product to market. Your profits at this stage will typically be low due to high marketing costs since your product will need exposure and interest from consumers. You may need to educate consumers about your offering during the introduction stage, especially if it's entirely new for them.
Your gross profit margins may increase during the growth stage due to higher demand and consumer awareness. Your cash flow begins to enter positive territory because you've reached a level of scale that lowers your unit production cost and brings economies of scale.
After the growth stage, sales may continue to increase but at a decreasing rate until they reach a constant point or even fall. This is known as maturity, as most potential buyers have already bought your product, so there are fewer customers. Your sales could also fall if an improved product version enters the market. Your average sales price per unit tends to decline. Competition increases and companies look for ways of reducing their unit costs to maintain their profit margins.
This is the stage when sales start to fall because consumer tastes have changed or competition has created better products at lower prices. The decline stage begins when you no longer sell enough volume of products to maintain a significant share of the market. You may phase out your product due to newer models, new technology, or replacement products. At this point, most companies will stop advertising and promoting their product and instead focus on maximizing profits during the product's last days on the market.
A product management team is responsible for the end-to-end product development process. They're in charge of everything from ideation and research to design, development, and marketing. The team is made of various professionals, including:
Designers and engineers
Test engineers or QA engineers
Product management teams can exist in many different forms, depending on the size of the company or product they're working on. For example, a small start-up with five people might have a single person who has multiple roles as a product manager, designer, and engineer.
Product management involves taking on varied responsibilities. As a product manager, you may need to play the role of a business analyst, product owner, and much more. You may need a complete understanding of product management, including:
Product strategy: This is the foundation of all product management activities, including planning, development, and marketing.
User experience design: As a product manager, you’ll need to understand user experience design principles and methods.
Agile development: You’ll need to understand Agile product development concepts, methodologies, and tools.
Business analysis: You are responsible for ensuring that under development products are commercially viable. Business analysis skills may help you create a compelling business case, identify critical requirements, and set priorities.
Marketing skills: You’ll need to be able to market your products effectively. This requires strategic thinking and familiarity with key marketing techniques, such as marketing analytics, social media marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Leadership: The ability to inspire a team to execute product strategy is critical to your success as a product manager. Product leaders must be able to rally all necessary employees around a single vision and motivate them to take it from concept to reality.
Communication skills: You'll need to communicate with everyone involved in your product development process and be able to talk and explain your product. This means presenting information clearly and succinctly.
Collaboration: As a product manager, you’re not solely responsible for the success or failure of the product, but you will be making decisions for it. It takes many people (and teams) to bring a product to life. Collaboration is key to a successful outcome.
Domain knowledge: As a product manager, it's essential to understand how the technology that powers your product works because it can help you make better decisions.
Product lifecycle managers connect many different business areas throughout the product journey. You’ll need to be able to navigate through the following disciplines:
Engineering, including mechanical design and simulation
Manufacturing, including tooling and processes
Supplier management, including supplier development and audit processes
Reverse logistics, including repair and refurbishment processes
Employers value the product lifecycle management skill set, and it is a critical part of any business that makes products.
In today’s competitive business environment, it's essential to make the correct product development and promotion decisions. Product lifecycle management helps companies improve decision-making and streamline innovation. It’s a strategic business discipline that enhances collaboration and communication throughout the entire product lifecycle.
Following a professional approach means companies can more easily track where products are in their lifecycle and quickly access all relevant data about those products.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a product lifecycle manager in the US is $94,957 per year . Your actual salary will depend on your experience level, the type of company you work for, and your location.
A wide array of PLM software options is available to help you manage everything from product concept design, manufacturing, and marketing. Here are some examples:
1. SAP PLM
This is a web-based solution designed for the manufacturing industry. It integrates aspects of PLM with business functions which may result in increased efficiency and profitability.
2. Siemens Teamcenter
This web-based solution integrates engineering with manufacturing, IT, and business processes. It is ideal for large enterprises looking to improve efficiency across their entire organization.
3. Oracle Agile
This solution is built on the Oracle database and provides a comprehensive PLM platform to support manufacturers’ current and future needs in today's economy. It also offers an integrated collaboration environment where teams can work together on innovation projects while managing their data securely in one central location.
4. Bamboo Rose
Bamboo Rose is a digital platform that connects brands, retailers, and suppliers to automate the product lifecycle. The company’s tools facilitate collaboration on 3D design, sampling, and production.
5. Aras PLM
This is an enterprise open-source software platform that allows manufacturers to manage their product lifecycle. The company provides data management, simulation and analysis, technical documentation, quality management, and other capabilities in a unified system.
Upchain is a cloud-based product lifecycle management solution that enables manufacturers to collaborate with customers and supply chain partners. The tool includes engineering change control and quality control features.
7. Andromeda PLM by NGC
NGC offers a complete end-to-end solution for all aspects of product development. The solution was developed to cater to the fashion and footwear industries. The company’s product data management solutions include a PLM system from its Andromeda suite.
8. Centric PLM
Centric is a popular PLM solution for retail, footwear, apparel, and consumer goods industries. Its primary offering is Centric 8 PLM, which provides an end-to-end solution for managing the entire product lifecycle.
Propel PLM helps companies in the manufacturing industry to manage their products throughout the entire product lifecycle, from design to production to distribution and customer service.
Productboard is a cloud-based end-to-end platform that offers marketing tools such as customer feedback analysis, product positioning, and pricing research.
Whether you're still considering jobs in product management or are already in the industry, you can take online courses to help you learn more, all at your own pace. To learn more about the product lifecycle, consider Google Project Management Professional Certificate on Coursera.
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Recognizing the product lifecycle means examining and understanding the status of your sales, prices, costs, and competition. There are frameworks, like the Boston Consulting Matrix, that can be used to help you understand the lifecycle of your product.
Some of the factors that affect the product lifecycle are market saturation with similar products, competition, patents and protections, rate of consumer acceptance, and innovation (i.e., the emergence of new technologies). Companies can affect the lifecycle through their brand and marketing campaigns, pricing strategies, quality of sales, and after-sales service.
1. Glassdoor. "Product Lifecycle Manager- Salary, ” https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/product-lifecycle-manager-salary-SRCH_KO0,25.htm." Accessed May 27, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.