Product development is a complicated process for many companies especially if it involves complexities and high technology products. The use of especially rapid prototyping for product development process has been debated for long. Many studies have made clear that use of prototypes but in combination with a clear strategy for prototyping does help in the efficiency of product development process especially when complexities exist.
Two critical factors that are essential in any prototyping for product development are Time and Resources- in terms of not just infrastructure, ie hardware and software, but also human resources. Most mangers are always struggling to meet these two factors. Further, envisaging the additional expenses for just a prototype especially when time is of essence often leads most managers to employ a very lean team. More often than not QA testers are not involved in the initial stages of the design and implementation of the prototype build as it takes both Time and resources which are viewed as additional expenses. The QA testing team is brought in just before release of the prototype to catch and fix last minute bugs. When rapid prototyping is involved, it is advisable to include the QA testing team.
Three essential reasons to include the QA testing team at the initial phase:
- Prototyping is not just design and development but also how well the product will perform under various conditions – be it hardware or software. For this, purpose having a fraction of the QA team involved in testing the prototype is essential to deliver a well thought and tested prototype
- Providing the client the various scenarios under which the prototype has been tested, not just based on the requirements of which they had requested, but also being proactive and innovative, will go a long way in ensuring the optimization of the prototype, which can help them also look further afield. Remember prototyping is a process to help inform and test the design at the concept stage and not just to determine the final form of the product.
- Variability and unpredictability is always an issue when rapid prototyping is required. Having the QA testers involved help them also pre-think of various conditions under which the prototype product can be tested, so that when the prototype is just about to be rolled, the testers are ready with the scenarios under which it can be quickly tested and then deployed.
Thus, once the product is delivered and tested, designing and developing it later, with known tested conditions, makes it an easier process under which strategies to optimize resources can be employed for its development.
It needs to be kept in mind that when there is high utilization of resources the outcome inevitably leads to creating queues of projects. It is a given observation that when a product is partially completed and it requires a build-up of capacity to become available, the time involved for the product development and release invariably grows. Quicker feedback helps developers to make faster turnaround on the prototype, as delays could be costly to the product development process. The consequences could lead to companies finding it difficult to adjust to evolving market needs and thereby releasing a weak product into the market.
The Benefits that rapid prototyping and involving the QA team brings is manifold when speed is of essence for the iterative product development:
- Cost reduction drops down tremendously making the product development process more cost effective
- Processing time reduces as the prototype has already been tested under many scenarios
- Concepts are verified and clarified at the start when they have been tested
- Brings increased flexibility to help enable component modifications at later stages