Improving Product Development Outcomes

In this post we will look at the Product Development Process and how to get improved outcomes. But first here is a fun graphic made from our logo.

Successful Endeavours - Making Electronics and Embedded Software Work

Successful Endeavours – Making Electronics and Embedded Software Work

Product Development Process

The Product Development Process is intended to reliably deliver new products for manufacture or distribution. This is a critical component of a Product Strategy where you are creating the product rather than sourcing it from a supplier. So you would think that it should be a highly optimised, well oiled machine that reliably delivers successful products. Alas that is not always the case. With 30 years of experience in Developing Products for a wide range of industries I have seen my share of projects handled well and not so well. Here are some general principles I have gleaned from my experience in Successful Product Development Projects:

  • Risks must be identified and managed. Track them and eliminate them as soon as possible.
  • Anything clever or tricky needs to be checked by someone else.
  • Everything else also gets checked. Design reviews, code walk-throughs and prototypes save time, money and heart ache later on.
  • Hold the timeline. Foster an attitude that slippage is not acceptable.
  • Test and check everything.
  • It’s not finished until no-one has to do another thing to it.

So six core principles. They are inter related of cousre. Let’s look at how these work out in practice.

 

Successful Product Development Principles

Lets look at how each of these priciples can be used to improve the likelihood of a Successful Product Development Project.

Risk ManagementRiskManagement

Risk Management is an old idea. Not surprising since risks have always existed. Did you know that during the Manhattan Project it was determined that there was a chance that a fission bomb could ignite the whole atmosphere ? Having got contradictory reports the argument was eventually settled by a report showing that although it was possible, it was unlikely. How comfortable would you feel running that risk ? Fortunately the average Development Project is dealing with much more mundane risks such as achieving Technical Requirements such as:

  • Power Consumption
  • Unit Manufacturing Cost
  • Performance Criteria

But the approach is still the same:

  • Identify the risk
  • Work out how to ameliorate the risk – reduce it – or eliminate it
  • Do tests to confirm the risk has been dealt with
  • Iterate until it is no longer a risk

Review the clever bits

Test Everything - Clever Design Needs Test

Test Everything – Clever Design Needs Test

Where possible, any particularly clever or tricky areas of the project need to be reviewed by someone not involved in the everyday work of the project. This is primarily to ensure that assumptions are challenged. If you can’t get an outsider to do the review, use a process like Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono which can allow team members to step outside their emotional and assumptive predispositions. Unchallenged assumptions are unmanaged risks.

 

Review the rest of the project

Test Everything

Review Everything

The astute amongst would have noticed that I am proposing everything gets reviewed. But the tricky bits get extra review. This section is for the regular bits. Reviews are an essential tool to find mistakes early and eliminate problems down the track. You don’t have to solve a problem you don’t have. Or as Jack Ganssle famously quipped “Skip Bugging To Speed Delivery“. The whole article refers to using Code Review and Design Review to find problems early and fix them so they don’t become much bigger problems later on. Imagine a scenario where a Software Bug causes an electric motor to try and spin backward every now and again and then corrected itself almost immediately. You would get a momentary shudder or jerk followed by correct motion and it would only happen every now and again. How would you determine that this was a software fault and where the fault lay? It could be symptomatic of any number of issues including Mechanical Design and Electrical Design. How about this similar real world case. I won’t mention the company, but their elevators had an Integer Overflow problem in the motor controller that caused the elevator to go in the wrong direction, about once a month, for half a floor. Very disconcerting to the passengers if they pressed up, and promptly dropped half a floor before then going up. Fortunately they found it and fixed it before it happened to someone at the top or bottom floor. All the Software Industry Metrics show for that for Software Development; Design Review, Code Review, Unit Tests and System Simulation save money and time. And yet in many projects they don’t happen enough or are done after the event as a Quality Assurance box ticking activity where they add mostly cost and little in the way of value. Lean Coding argues that you can reduce your Software Development Budget in particular by doing Code Inspections during the project as part of the Risk Management and Quality Management process. By reducing the bugging, you can reduce the debugging.

 

Stick to the Timeline

Project Development Timeline

Project Development Timeline

An attitude that the schedule slipping is normal can be very costly. Some examples of how to avoid this are:

  • Develop and Simulate the Software before the Hardware is ready
  • Prototype early and thoroughly
  • buy in IP where it makes financial sense – this can also reduce risk
  • get expert assistance with areas outside your competence
  • review regularly and honestly

As someone who has done a lot of team leading and project management, I have learned to ask about progress in more than one way. I find the following to be very common: Manager: “This module is estimated as 10 days of work to complete. How complete is it”? Developer: “About 80%”. Manager: “How many more days of work are required to fully finish everything”? Developer: “To fully finish everything, I would think 6 more days would cover it all”. The discrepancy is easy to spot. People estimate high on progress because they want to please. They also like to finish well so they tend to estimate conservatively on required effort. In practice the real answer lies somewhere between the 2 extremes. If the task had already consumed 6 days of effort then it is likely to run late. If you have ever built a house you might have experienced the knock on effect it has when one trades person doesn’t turn up and everyone else misses their scheduled action time because they are now waiting on a predecessor task, the trades person who has to come back again, before they can start their task. The same thing happens on projects. So fight hard to hold to the schedule. It is better to over resource a task (according to the plan) and get it done than to let everything and everyone slip which usually costs a lot more. Additionally, it is quite common that the later you are in the market, the lower the overall profit. So it is worth holding the schedule for this reason as well.

 

Test and Check Everything

Test Everything

Test Everything

This is another Risk Management related principle. Don’t assume it will be OK. Even if you have done it 100 times before, test it again this time. Make sure it really is OK. This ensures it really is 100% complete. This also implies that you are going to design things so they can be tested. Another principle. Design For Testability or somestimes called Design For Test. Do it. It will save you time, effort, money and sleep. Test Driven Development is another example of a Modern Development Methodology where you set up the test first then develop the product so it passes the test. If the Product Requirements change, you change the tests first, show that the old Product Design fails the test, then update the Product Design until it now passes the test.

 

It is not finished until no-one has to do anything else to it

Many tasks are called complete but they aren’t. The documents might be checked into the Revision Control System, also known as a Version Control System or Version Management System, but it isn’t complete until it is 100% tested, 100% integrated, 100% reviewed and 100% signed off and no-one has to do another thing. This also means that when tasks are identified that weren’t thought of in the original Project Plan, you then add them and don’t try and fiddle them into existing tasks. This is different to working out the fine detail of a task and realising it is under resourced or over resourced on the Project Plan. You also want the extra tasks visible on the Project Management Plan so when you do the next project you have evidence that they were required last time and can make allowances for them.

 

Trip Assurance for Developers

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Satisfaction Guaranteed

In marketing, the term Trip Assurance refers to the client having a clear expectation of this transaction or experience being a good one, just like every other one has been. I think we can begin to develop some of the same as developers whereby projects can be routinely good experiences and likely to be so each time.

 

This post is also available as an eZine article with Expert Author classification.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Successful Electronics Needs a Successful Name

Electronics Development and Success

Hello again,

 

A couple of posts ago in Electronics Manufacture Shines in Melbourne I said I would explain the origins of our company name. Many have suggested that Successful Endeavours sounds more like a personal coaching enterprise or a business that handles products by people like:

And the list could go on for a long time.

 

While I do hope we motivate and encourage our clients to improve their results, we assist them by undertaking activities such as:

 

 

Electronics Development Activities

  • Electronic Circuit Design
  • Electronic Circuit Simulation
  • Analogue Electronics
  • Analogue Design
  • Printed Circuit Board Design
  • Printed Circuit Board Layout
  • Electronic Prototyping
  • Electronic Testing
  • Embedded Software Design
  • Embedded Software Development
  • Embedded Software Coding
  • Embedded C
  • Embedded Software Debug

 

Development Statistics

The name came from some industry statistics on the success rate for Product Development. You can read more details in Reducing Electronics and Embedded Software Product Development Costs and I will summarise here:

  • 80% of embedded development projects fail in someway or another
  • Embedded software is 80% of the cost of an embedded development project
  • Embedded software is responsible for 80% of the delays and shortcomings

 

Successful Product Development

So it seemed to me that many Product Development Projects are unsuccessful endeavours. I wanted to change that. We have a success rate significantly better than all the industry norms. Our short USP ( Unique Selling Proposition ) is:

 

We Make Stuff Work

 

That’s it. The details are complex but the philosophy is simple. So for me, Electronics and Embedded Software Development should be a routinely Successful Endeavour. And so the name Successful Endeavours was chosen.

 

I am passionate and committed to assisting Australian Electronics Manufacturers who want to keep making their products in Australia. Made In Australia is what we are pursuing and we are focusing on this segment.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Electronics Manufacture Shines in Melbourne

National recognition for local Casey Business

OK, I couldn’t resist that blog title or this headline. It isn’t often you get a chance to say something like that. If you hadn’t heard yet, we are finalists in two categories in the EDN Innovation Awards for 2009. Melbourne is the Electronics Manufacturing capital of Australia and we are based in Berwick which is administered by the City of Casey . And we are also members of the Berwick Chamber Of Commerce.

 

Successful Endeavours in the NEWS

The Casey Weekly Berwick has just done an article on Successful Endeavours that also covers the EDN Innovation Awards we are finalists for. You can check it out here Electronics Whiz Wired For Success. And as a bonus, you get to see what we look like.

 

Electronics Manufacturing

Our aim is to turn Australian Electronics Manufacture into Low Cost Electronics Manufacture through improving the total cost of a product throughout its life cycle. This is not a quality reduction process. Quite the opposite. Getting the product right so it doesn’t fail and does do what it is meant to do is one of the things necessary to reducing cost.

 

Located on the outskirts of Melbourne we primarily serve Melbourne based Electronics Manufacturers by providing them with Electronics and Embedded Software Development services that save them up to 70% compared to traditional linear Product Development.

 

So how do we do that?

 

Firstly, there are a few blog posts you can refer back to that will fill in some of the details.

 

Successful Product Development

Australian Electronics Manufacturing

Low Cost Electronics Manufacture in Australia that competes favourable with China is feasible. Ignoring the trade offs discussed in the links above, the steps to take are:

  • Identify the primary priority – is it time, cost, performance?
  • Reviews costs – all the costs – see the last link above if you are sure what they all are
  • Reduce Cost through redesign to remove unnecessary labour and to streamline manufacture
  • Implement
  • Deploy
  • Monitor and correct as required

Written like this it sound simple, and conceptually it is. Where it gets lost is in the assumption that it can’t be that simple. But there aren’t any hidden traps in this process.

 

We have had a few queries about how we came up with our company name, Successful Endeavours. Next post I will reveal all.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

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