Product Management

Accelerating New Product Development with Customer Lean Validation

New Product Development (NPD) is a systematic framework for guiding processes from ideation to solution launch. The process can be represented by a funnel with many new ideas entering the discovery stage, narrowing to the most viable few for development and ultimate launch and go-to-market (GTM).

A common approach is for teams to generate solutions, rank them then build them. This assumes the teams are experts, know their customers and competition. However, it’s critical not to shortcut customer validation. Particularly, the work required to 1) gain a deeper understanding of your customer’s needs, 2) customer jobs to be done and 3) testing of the hypotheses and assumptions for your solution.    

With pressures on teams to shorten time-to-market, faster realization of value occurs when teams use lean customer validation before they launch a solution. Customer validation leads to better product market fit and higher likelihood of GTM success.


According to a 2011 Booz, Allen Hamilton study, sources of innovation apply to many enterprise initiatives. Under step 1, business model tools such as Lean Canvas and inputs such as market analysis help winnow these efforts.  


In step 2, the teams and management can score the opportunity using several criteria. 


In step 3, teams can experiment efficiently by creating a short storyboard or brief that articulates Maximum Value Propositions and Use Cases. The storyboard should demonstrate how the solution will solve the customer Jobs to be Done and pain points. The storyboard should also incorporate key assumptions and hypotheses to be tested during the lean customer validation phase.  


In step 4, organizational understanding of the solution blueprint (what you can build) and go-to-market strategies should start to emerge as customer conversations provide greater clarity on the storyboard. At this stage, it’s critical to validate your proof points, market segments, customer benefits (unique value propositions), sales process, customer adoption cycles and pricing. Equally as important is an early business case. If feasible, a business case should be developed before any further investments in resources or funding are made (i.e., “what if” modeling of pro-forma sales assumptions and revenues).  


In step 5 to shorten your time-to-market and time-to-value, alternatives to coding from scratch should be evaluated, including assembly and integration of third party assets. The software architect, design, product management and engineering teams are now working side-by-side in testing and making prototypes a coded reality. Throughout this process, customer validation (deep context) continues to drive what you can build rather than a team’s strongly held beliefs or assumptions that may be lacking in evidence. A strong link should exist between testing iteratively and validation of deep customer insights.


Step 6 captures the remaining steps required for full deployment and general availability (GA) of your solution. If a de novo solution, this step may include customer pilots before GA to test customer acceptance, work out corrections and to build early testimonials and net promoter scores. When pilots validate your proof points, your organization is now well positioned to make further investments, raise capital and move into full GA release. Investments can be made to ramp and scale, execute go-to-market strategies, expand sales and distribution efforts, increase customer success, roll out developments and plan for future enhancements.