Setting Expectations & Understanding Scope in Product Design

This month, as part of our product design know-how blog series, we’re talking about setting and managing expectations, and understanding how to determine and manage the scope of a project. Product design is a pretty involved process, can be fairly costly and is also usually quite an exciting journey to be part of, so it stands to reason that it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. Understanding scope in product design is critical to the success of your project.

To bring a client’s vision to life accurately usually requires a fairly iterative process in order to nail the brief. Managing expectations on both sides during this process is critical for a smooth-running relationship.

Man in suit sitting on a chair looking at a wall of plans for his project displayed in a sketched doodle fashion - he is pointing at the plans while his laptop is on his lap

Managing Expectations in Product Design

Work with your product design consultancy to ensure the estimate you have been provided for the project is as accurate as possible – understand the total costs and any stage payments and exactly what you can expect to get for the money. You are partly responsible for getting this part right; be sure that what you have briefed to the team, is exactly what you are after.

Go out of your way to understand the steps required in the design process. (To give you an idea of how this may look, you can check back on our previous blog, aptly named ‘The Design Process’ by following this link.) As the customer you need to fully understand the timelines you are expecting to run with, a schedule of when you are expecting to see a mock-up of your product, when testing should take place, when you might be able to run with a soft launch and ultimately when the product is likely to be set to go manufacture and later, to market.

If you have been provided a schedule of events by your consultancy check it over and make sure there is nothing in the detail that creates a problem for you later down the line. It’s best to share that schedule with any external parties involved in the project, so they know when they need to prepare their teams. Understand the sign off dates and make sure the stakeholders in the project are going to be available at the right times; this ensures the process can keep moving.

Be as efficient as possible when it comes to communications. If there is an email in your inbox, or a voicemail on your phone from the product design team, check it – they might be waiting on your answer to a question, which could be holding up the project. If you are working with a number of teams be as transparent as possible, to ensure all parties are updated with any schedule changes, changes to specifications and so on.

4 lightbulbs with filaments featuring wording, left to right reading, scope, quality, time and cost, against a black backdrop

Understanding Scope in Product Design

When a product design team produces an estimate to create a product, they will be taking into account the information you have provided. This is why it is critical that the designers are given as much information as possible at the start of the product design journey.

If you want your wearable device to monitor heart rate for running and swimming, that’s great. But if you later decide that you actually want it to be able to pick up phone calls, then you’re going to find your project running behind deadline and it will be over budget. This sort of situation is one example of scope creep. Know your product before you start engaging with the design team.

In our previous blog on ‘Creating the Perfect Product Design Brief’, the key steps we covered included understanding what the product is, what it should actually do, how it will be used and the market at which the product is aimed. By really fleshing out the detail at briefing stage, you should have already created a defining set of requirements for your product, which will help avoid scope creep.

It’s critical that you can make prompt and firm decisions on what you are expecting, in order to progress the product within the budget and timeframe agreed. Considering the elements in the Quality Triangle; Time, Cost and Quality, can help keep you on track. If you know that you want the finest and tiniest technology (quality) to be contained in the sassiest of casing, for example, then you can expect the cost and timelines to vary, allowing the team the flexibility to source or commission those elements to meet the required standards. If however, time is critical, then already your project will have some limitations around it, such as the need to source stock parts promptly, quicker prototyping and testing processes, etc.

When you are trying to keep your product design journey on track, the best thing you can ask yourself is, “Do we really need to make this change now?”.  Imagine, for want of a less predictable example, that Apple mulled over the iPhone, until it looked like an iPhone X! It would have been a lot later to market, giving the competition an advantage.

With any product there will be an iterative process, even once the product has been created and gone to market. This is how you avoid obsolescence and stay ahead of the competition. By asking yourself these sorts of questions, you are more likely to stay on-track, focused on the outcome which reflects the vision (and the brief) that you set out to achieve with your product design team.

We hope this article has been helpful. If so, we’d love it if you could click and share! For any product design queries or assistance, our expert team are on hand, as always. Please do email us here or give us a call on 01962 454474.

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