Commercialization Toolkit

Introduction to Product Development

How to use this guide

The Product Development module is dedicated to helping your organization understand the processes of product design, development, manufacturing, and postsale support. The module is broken down into four submodules to help guide you through each of these processes:

1.0 Identifying user needs

2.0 Developing products

3.0 Sourcing and manufacturing

4.0 Providing postsale support

User-centered product development

The most important thing to remember when developing a product is to start with the “user.” The framework for this is known as user-centered design. To do this, you must start by understanding what the user of your product needs, desires, and values. You can then pair this understanding with the technical requirements of the problem you are trying to solve, for example, a water filter must make water clean and safe to drink. When products are designed only with the technical requirements in mind, the end result is often a perfectly functional product that is not appealing, affordable, or desirable to users.

PATH embraces user-centered design and expands on the user to include key stakeholders that can play important roles in the eventual success of a new product. These stakeholders can include product manufacturers, distributors, sales teams, installers, and policy and/or regulatory bodies that have the potential to impact the success of a product. However, considering a broad array of stakeholders is not easy, since some stakeholders might have needs that are at odds with the needs of other stakeholders. For example: End users want products to be affordable, however those who make and sell products want to make a profit. Designing products that are less expensive to manufacture and easy to ship (of interest to manufacturers), and that are also affordable and desirable (of interest to end users) can help balance these competing interests. Managing these complicated trade-offs has been a key to PATH’s success for over 30 years. We have included many of our approaches for doing this in this toolkit.

It is not just about a great product

There are many great innovations that never reach their potential for positive health impact. Some common reasons are: products are too expensive so customers (end users) cannot afford them; designs are not appropriate or durable enough for their environment; a lack of distribution channels; and a lack of awareness about the product.

The JaipurKnee case study highlights the importance of user-centered design.

JaipurKnee: The JaipurKnee was a prosthetic knee that was successful from a product-design standpoint: it was low-cost, manufactured locally, and end users wanted it. However, despite these success factors, a distribution plan was not created and consumers largely remained unaware of the great product. This oversight in the distribution plan posed a significant barrier to the reach and impact of their product. Remember, it takes more than just a great design or product to reach your customers. This is especially true in countries with poor or developing infrastructure, where reaching customers can be challenging and can require creative and unique distribution and manufacturing approaches. Upon realizing their oversight, the JaipurKnee manufacturer updated their business model to include a distribution plan and was able to satisfy consumer demand with their product.

Click on the link below for a more detailed overview of the product and its history: