Timeline of 20 Common Product Development Activities

23 Nov 2022 by Scott Middleton

How long an activity takes can have a huge impact on success or the perception of success when developing products. More often than not, teams are overly optimistic on the timeline that will be required to complete an activity.

Why it matters

When you get the timeline or duration activities wrong you can create a variety of problems. You can miss targets. You can put unnecessary pressure on your team. You might undertake an initiative that actually wasn’t feasible from the outset. You might design your organisation or team poorly. 

Why duration impacts success (and failures)

The main reason why the timeline of activities can be a problem in product development is because of dependencies on other people.

This manifests in different ways. Sometimes an activity just takes time for something as simple as fitting into someone’s calendar or someone needing time to think. Sometimes an activity takes time because you need to discuss, agree and go through consideration with multiple people in multiple steps of a sequential process. Sometimes it’s because holidays are on.

Activities can also just take time for reasons other than people. Some activities rely or interact with processes or organisations that are designed or function in a way where time will or must pass.

Getting duration and timeline right will help set you up for success and avoid headaches or more serious problems. 

Activities and Duration

With these challenges in mind it’s worthwhile having a guide to help better estimate how long activities common to product development will take. 

To make it a little more digestible it’s been broken down by subject area below. 

Some subject areas and activities that usually sit outside the product development organisation have been included because they often impact product development in some way.

Size Multiplier: For each activity you may need to apply a multiplier to the duration listed based on the size of the parties involved in the activity. As a rule of thumb, 2x for a mid-sized company, 4x for an enterprise, 5x for government involvement. 

Product Discovery Activities

Here are the durations for product discovery activities:

ActivityDurationWhere time goes
Customer interviews1-4 weeksFinding and fitting into people’s schedules to interview them. Even longer if your interview targets are busy and small in number. Longer if you require approvals internally.
Design Feedback1-4 weeksFitting into people’s schedules, design process (if there is one). Designs are listed because they have a way of going longer than expected.
Competitor Analysis1-8 weeksIf going deep, some products and services require time to pass to assess the value of the product.
Market Analysis1 week – 3+ monthsIt’s either quick desktop research or you’re going deep, following threads and speaking with industry experts.
Survey1 day to 3 monthsYou either have a user base you can access quickly for insights or you need find and recruit. Sometimes you won’t get the number of responses you need and you’ll need to keep recruiting. It’s hard to know at the outset.
Feature Validation1 day to 6+ monthsAssessing whether the feature you released has been validated as worthwhile. Sometimes you can see analytics instantly or get feedback instantly. Other times, due to the nature of the product or service you may need to wait.

Product Development

Here are the durations for product development activities:

ActivityDurationWhere time goes
Integration with third party system (no public API)4-12 weeksYou need to meet with their team, understand how it works, then it likely won’t work as expected and you’ll require support.
Integration with third party system (public API)1-14 daysWhen there is a public API you can quickly build against it. Being public usually means a standard of quality is there that you can rely on as well.
Test and deploy5 minutes to 3+ monthsSome companies can test and deploy immediately, others take months.
Feature Release1 day to 6+ monthsWhat this refers to is making the feature available, communicating the feature exists and ensuring users can access and use it. Sometimes this is instant, other times a rollout can take months.
Data analyticsWeeks to monthsTaking data sets, making sense of them and then getting them into a shape that you can work with in your product usually takes time. Even with simple data sets from different but simple systems the slight differences in how data is labelled can result in days/weeks of time elapsed.
Security Testing1 hour to 3+ monthsSimple, automated testing can be instant. Penetration tests can take a few days. Rigorous security testing, where you may not be aware it’s occurring, can require months to take place and proactively remediate.


Here are the durations of team related activities that usually impact product development timelines:

ActivityDurationWhere time goes
Hiring2-6 monthsHiring a new team member takes time. From sourcing candidates, to interviewing, to them starting. If you consider notice periods alone then you’re already at least 2-4 weeks in timeline.
Forming, Norming, Storming, Performing2-6+ monthsPeople take time to work out how to work well together. It’s human nature.

Business Development

Here are the durations of business development activities that usually impact product development timelines:

ActivityDurationWhere time goes
Exploring Partnership1-6+ monthsFinding time in a calendar, people needing time to consider and build trust. Takes longer if either party hasn’t done this type of partnership before. Speed it up by fitting it into a type of partnership that is known.
Procurement5 mins – 6+The process required for a purchase to take place is occasionally instant but, even with a strong desire to buy, usually takes weeks and sometimes months.
The size of the purchase and the security required are usually the key determinants of duration here.
Onboarding0 mins – 2+ monthsEven once you’ve cleared the sales and procurement hurdles it can take time for you to be onboarded (given access, appropriate training) in order to get your tech or service to work for your customer. Sometimes security or background checks can delay this further.
Proof of Concept1 day to 3 monthsAllowing enough time for people to use and evaluate the benefit of a product takes time. Sometimes you can see analytics instantly or get feedback instantly. Other times, due to the nature of the product or service you may need to wait.
Anything over 3 months is too long, 1 month is probably a more common time frame.
SalesWeeks to monthsFinding the right person, sharing the information with them, engaging stakeholders in the business and reaching a decision usually takes time even with small purchases.
Marketing CampaignWeeks to monthsFrom the lens of product, a marketing campaign will usually take weeks to plan, weeks to prepare and then sometimes happen instantly but usually play out over a period of months.

Plan for time

From this guide, that is by no means comprehensive, you can get a sense of the timeline involved in many of the activities you are probably working on right now.

Having a sound understanding or at the very least a discussion with your team about how long things might take can help you speed it up, plan around it and make better decisions.

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