With all of the buzz around “The Internet of Things”, “Wearable Devices”, “Smart Cars”, and many other emerging or evolving application segments, the time to market pressures for product developers serving these segments is increasing dramatically. Therefore, savvy engineering managers are looking for ways to improve their product development processes. Note that I said “development processes” and not “development time”. I make that distinction because while it is obviously important to reduce product development cycle time in order to keep up with the market demands, one must also ensure the other aspects of the product (features, cost, quality) are not compromised. In this blog, I will discuss a few topics for consideration to improve the development process.
The Development Process Options
In simple terms, the development process includes just a few basic steps: assess the market, define the product, develop the product, test the product, release the product. Of course, we all know it’s not quite that simple. We also know that there are many different ways to approach the various steps in the process. I cannot venture to guess how many articles, white papers, research studies, books, webinars, etc. are available discussing the development process. During my career, I have read my fair share of these works, but I have also learned from both my successful and not so successful product development efforts. The teams that I led in the past used many different approaches to assess the markets and define the products. For development and test, we used classic waterfall approaches, we used Agile/Lean approaches, we used classic directed test methodologies and we used object oriented directed random test methodologies. When releasing the product, we also used various approaches: we included alpha/beta releases in same cases while in others we went straight to production releases.
You’ll probably not be surprised to hear that I have found that there is no one simple answer. But, I believe the core of all process decisions should be driven by sound business metrics. Are you building a product that will solve your customers’ real problems? If so, can you build the product that also meets your cost, revenue, profit margin, and quality goals? And, of course, can you meet the time to market requirements?
With the market demands mentioned, it can be quite challenging to set aside time to assess how one is developing products. But, in my opinion, it is imperative to continuously fine tune, and perhaps even dramatically change, your development processes. Today’s or tomorrow’s products may not be able to be effectively developed using yesterday’s methodologies. The growth of your business depends on adaptability and flexibility. I’d like to hear what you think. So, please share your insights and/or experiences