Best Practices

Optimizing Your Product Development Process Through Team Collaboration: Strategies for Systems Engineers

Team Collaboration Strategies for Systems Engineers

Complexity is nothing new. For decades, systems engineers have participated in new product development processes on internal teams, driving complicated projects to market under old rules, methods, and technologies.

But today’s highly-competitive markets offer new complexities that no longer work within the old rules of product development. According to McKinsey Global Institute, “the number of connected machine-to-machine devices has increased 300% since 2008.” Similarly, Machina Research — now part of Gartner — estimates that the number of connected machine-to-machine devices will increase from 5 billion in 2014 to 27 billion by 2024.

An Increasingly Complex Product Development Process

In an environment where modern systems are getting “smarter” and more complex every day, the product development process required to build them is also growing increasingly complicated.

Today’s systems engineers face new challenges such as:

  • Tight operational margins
  • Accelerating rate of innovation
  • Increasingly complicated end-user demands
  • Heightened focus on getting to market faster
  • Increased and changing regulations

Download this recent report by Engineering.com to learn more about the gap between the increasing complexity of products and requirements management.

Research conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Jama Software identified five obstacles to optimized product development:

  • Unclear or changing requirements coupled with lack of timely feedback for solutions
  • Lack of focus caused by conflicting stakeholder priorities, assumptions, and unclear objectives
  • Difficulty collaborating across globally-distributed teams
  • Unnecessary handoffs and delayed decisions
  • Increased collaboration across diverse roles, including executives, operations, marketing, and quality assurance

In an environment that introduces so much complexity into the product development process, strategic team collaboration offers one of the best ways to address the challenges and obstacles of the modern product development landscape.

Strategic Team Collaboration: The Key Enabler of Innovation for Systems Engineers

Teams that still operate in silos with outmoded systems will not be equipped to meet the demands of the market going forward. In this era of rapidly accelerating change, strategic team collaboration is the key to improving the product development process for all team members. And in this era, the “team” includes everyone across the supply chain.

Today’s market demands require companies to build partnerships and seek solutions with more specialized materials. These partnerships mean greater sharing of data across distributed teams, partner organizations, and business units, sending a ripple effect through the supply chain as subsystem suppliers must anticipate features on the finished products and get ahead of release schedules and component costs.

But for systems engineers used to working on internal, siloed teams, these new partnerships present previously unforeseen challenges. What worked before doesn’t work today. Systems engineers need new strategies.

Developing complex products with partners requires a common vision. Learn how better requirements management helps facilitate the collaboration process by watching our webinar.

Strategies for Modern Requirements Management

In the new product development landscape, meetings, emails, and hallway chats are no longer sufficient for making decisions that impact the entire team. Modern systems engineering must include means for live data to be shared and accessed by teams anywhere in the world at any time.

Today’s product teams must be able to coordinate across departments, roles, companies, and geographic boundaries. The old way of sharing documents via email attachments and having meetings to discuss decisions doesn’t work when you need to work faster than ever before.

To meet the demands of the modern marketplace, systems engineers should implement practices such as the following:

  1. Establish a common definition of success. Teams need alignment on what they are building so they don’t waste time. Clarify expectations up front. What do the terms “define,” “build,” and “test” mean, for instance? What does success look like based on feedback loops such as customer interviews and design reviews? Define the “why” at the very beginning of the project.
  2. Empower better decision making. When the whole team is clear on the “why” defined at the beginning of a project, everyone is equipped to make better decisions. Good decisions need situational awareness, comprehension of impact, and a way to gather input from others. When responsibilities are clearly defined, those involved are empowered to initiate and resolve follow-up questions and issues.
  3. Tighten up your traceability. Certain industries need to demonstrate compliance with regulations. Traceability analysis proves your system holds up under regulatory demands and meets contractual terms. In order to tighten this process, coverage analysis can help a team find gaps and understand positive and negative progress. Extend traceability beyond engineering processes to link development and test activities back to the business rationale.
  4. Collaborate with purpose. Connect everyone on the team to relevant data that’s tied to the work. Don’t make decisions outside the process, such as in documents or emails.
  5. Reuse your IP. Repurpose entire IP blocks – design artifacts, specifications, test cases, content for data sheets, and process information.

Today’s product and system development environment may be complex, but systems engineers have an opportunity to optimize project management for success. To learn more, download our white paper, “Product Development Strategies for Systems Engineers.”