Tag Archive for: Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design

safety-critical product development

Bridging the Gaps in Safety-Critical Product Development

In increasingly complex, competitive, rapidly evolving, and highly regulated industries (including aerospace, automotive, and defense), market forces are creating new challenges for development teams building safety-critical products. To address this challenge, Ansys is hosting a webinar to discuss how combining a product development platform like Jama Connect with a model-based embedded software tool can help you bridge safety-critical product development gaps.

Date: September 15, 2020
Time: 11 AM EDT / 3 PM GMT /8:00 a.m. PT / 17:00 p.m. CEST

Designing complex cyber-physical systems not only requires a significant number of specialized stakeholders, but also efficient collaboration during development and verification activities. With some teams working remotely around the globe, there may be gaps in communications, locations, or tools that must be overcome to deliver the expected product in time and on budget, while being compliant with functional safety regulations.

In this webinar, Ansys and Jama Software show how to bridge the gaps by integrating a modern product development platform, such as Jama Connect, and a model-based embedded software tool, such as Ansys SCADE. From high-level requirements to V&V activities to implementation, you’ll be able to share a single source of truth that provides value to all stakeholders and facilitates alignment across teams.

Register and learn how to:
  • Design a product from stakeholder requirements to implementation according to safety standards like DO178-C or ISO 26262
  • Move from natural language requirements to formalized implementation with a high level of automation and using appropriate guidelines
  • Manage end-to-end traceability from requirements to tests and code that provides transparency to practitioners and management

Francois Xavier Dormoy, Senior Product Manager, Ansys
Michael Jastram, Senior Solutions Architect, Jama Software


As part of an ongoing series, we’re looking at insights and trends uncovered within the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design.”

Earlier this decade, a video encouraging kids to learn coding and featuring some of the biggest names in tech — including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey — went viral.

Released by the non-profit Code.org, one of the main messages of the video was that if more schools don’t start teaching coding and digital engineering principles, millions of the best tech jobs in America could eventually go unfilled.

These vacancies would be created by the explosive growth of technology across all industries and the finite number of qualified engineers to execute on company visions. Unfortunately, many companies are experiencing this strain now.

For instance, in the recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design,” one quarter of organizations creating smart products identified hiring and training hardware and software engineers as a major challenge.

Since Jama Software has been home to a number of excellent software engineers throughout the years, we wanted to share some of the lessons we’ve learned about what it takes to recruit, train and retain talent.

To do that, we talked with Laura Stepp, who has worked in human resources at several of the world’s top companies, and is now Jama Software’s Vice President of People.

Jama Software: In the recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study, companies say hiring and training engineering talent is one of the biggest challenges today. Are you surprised by that?

Laura Stepp: Anyone in high tech would tell you it’s a highly competitive marketplace for the right kind of skilled talent. In the US, we don’t produce enough engineers.

Also, technologies move quickly. For example, consider the idea of a connected product. That concept or word didn’t exist a decade ago. So you have all these people who were trained as engineers, but they were trained for a different world. And right now, the world is changing quite fast, so you need engineers that are comfortable with learning really quickly.

JS: What kind of value does finding the right engineering talent mean to an organization?

LS: There’s the technical skills, which are key, but more people are also realizing that you have to hire an engineer that is interested and willing to work in the way that you do. There is a methodology layer: Do they subscribe to Agile, or do they only know Waterfall?

And then I would say the third area people are probably screening for, certainly in start-up environments, is absolutely cultural fit. So, in addition to the way they engineer, there’s also the question of whether that engineer enjoys the way in which we operate as a company, meaning the values that drive our behavior. Is this an engineer that likes to collaborate or one who likes to work off in their cubby hole? And which way works best for our team?

As in all hiring — it doesn’t matter if it’s engineering or other — the more specific your requirements, the smaller your source pool.  Some of the best talent pipeline successes I have been a part of have been programs open to the entry level engineer with support for developing and grooming them over time.  This is a fantastic way to also improve diversity within the team.

Laura Stepp, Jama’s Vice President of People.

JS: What are some things you think companies can do to improve their standing with prospective engineers? 

LS: Companies need to be committed to establishing and then ensuring they are a workplace defined by integrity and safety. Ethical conduct and practices is good for everybody. And then, of course, you need to have good pay and benefits and strong managers.

When it comes to ethics and safety, if you get a rotten spot or a bad group in an organization, they can really have a large negative impact long-term.

We’ve seen some tech companies get taken down by just this issue, which is they underinvested in good-old-fashioned ethical operation, open-door culture, respectful workplace training and manager expectations. Organizations can pay a very heavy price if they underinvest here.

JS: What about retaining talent?

LS: Finding the right kind of human chemistry on a team is good, but also working with a “no jerks” rule can also be really important — especially if you want to hire millennial and female engineers, in my experience.  And trust me, people will be quite happy to share their horror stories with their friend and online which absolutely impacts a company’s talent brand.

Also, because engineers know how to keep their skills fresh, they learn from each other more than almost anything. So, I’ve found having a mentor who’s the senior engineer that will work well with or teach others is something people are thankful for.

JS: Having solid engineering leadership sounds really important too.

LS: It is. Engineering leaders set the tone and establish practices or expectations. They provide support and time. And while engineering is release driven, if they’re so obsessively release driven that there’s no time for the white space stuff, you can get yourself in a virtuous or demotivating cycle quicker than you think.

It’s those engineering leaders who do think about people stuff, not just technology, who have the more sustainable organizations.

JS: Do you see any trends in the next five years in terms of hiring engineers or hiring in general that people should be aware of?

LS: If products are getting more complex, then we’re either going to have to train in school or grow at work individuals who have more versatile skill sets that cross boundaries and can think in an integrated, holistic way about how the complexities come together.

More and more we’re going to see people who are either architects, systems or integration engineers. Because those are roles that inevitably connect things together.

You’ll have specialists but you’re also going to have people who are orchestrating the ridiculous complexity of producing products and trying to get everything to come out at the right time.

JS: Anything else we’re missing?

LS: There is an interesting theory that the problem with education right now is the jobs we’re training people for today really aren’t going to be the jobs of tomorrow. So how does education have to change?

It feels to me like education needs to build more practical skills and basic professional skills in addition to a learning mentality. Students today will need to learn how to adapt as much as they need to build some specialty capability. I think a lot of schools are trying to do things like internships or collaborative, work-education combinations that create a more useful end product and leave the student with some adaptable skills.

Read more expert analysis on the hiring and training challenges companies designing connected products are facing with the report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design.” The report also features insights from nearly 300 innovators from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, technology, healthcare, financial services and more.

Just because a device is smart, doesn’t mean it’s safe. That’s the October message from the FBI about connected products, such as home automation and security systems, medical devices, and wearables.

In its recent statement, the FBI expressed concern about the vulnerability of unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which criminals could compromise to launch attacks on other systems, steal personal information, jeopardize physical safety and more.

The FBI didn’t mention any imminent attacks, but experts are paying serious attention to a powerful strain of IoT attack malware, dubbed “Reaper” and “IoTroop,” that may have already infected a million organizations, according to KrebsOnSecurity.

And while there are a variety of preventative measures consumers can take, such as frequently changing passwords and installing patches, the burden of ensuring hackers don’t gain access to unsecured connected devices can’t totally fall on the public. Improved security is also the responsibility of companies creating smart devices, and many are being called on to step up their game.

Designing Better IoT Security

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), for example, says it’s examining security gaps and safety risks in connected medical devices, reports HealthcareITNews. As part of its efforts, the FDA has created a risk management program utilizing resources from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and is also instructing companies to focus on security during the product design process.

Whereas industries like healthcare must adhere to government-mandated regulations, consumer electronics — which is producing a huge portion of connected devices — does not.

That’s likely one of the reasons British chip-making company Arm just unveiled its Platform Security Architecture (PSA), which has support from companies like Google, Sprint, and Cisco. Arm’s PSA is a new, open-source, architecture system designed to act as a common development framework companies can work from to ensure their IoT products are safer.

As described by MIT Technology Review, think of PSA as a “set of free, open-source documents and code that define how a device’s software and firmware should be designed to make it secure—a kind of checklist and corresponding set of tools that should, in theory, help device makers build wares that are harder to hack.” At the moment, Arm has released the first draft of PSA specifications for its partners, with a wider, public release targeted for early 2018.

Moving Faster on IoT Development

Now, one of the biggest challenges is getting IoT product companies to take threats more seriously, and begin incorporating stronger security measures into their design.

In the recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design,” for example, just 24% of companies creating smart products said managing and securing large amounts of personal data gathered from connected devices is a major challenge.

That number was surprisingly low according to one expert quoted in the report, Hans Brechbühl of Tuck’s Center for Digital Strategies, who says it could mean that many companies don’t understand how big the issue is. “If your product or service gathers a lot of data, you’d better be ready to handle it,” Brechbühl says within the report.

If companies creating IoT products are looking for immediate ideas on how to begin remedying security gaps during development, there are certainly places to start. Better requirements management ensures products do what they’re designed to do, and decreases the amount of defects or vulnerabilities in its final release. Improving collaboration between development teams, specifically hardware and software, will also go a long way in averting inadvertent security blind spots.

For more insights on how product companies can tackle security of smart devices, check out our blog post, “One of the Biggest Security Problems Smart Product Developers Are Missing,” and the report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design.”

Whether it’s fitness trackers, home assistants, or smart medical devices, billions of connected products are in use around the world, and that phenomenon is only growing.

The demand for these devices is motivating companies to make major investments in the types of software, hardware, tools, and connectivity that drive IoT expansion. Since smart products are a shift for so many companies, they’re also needing to rethink how they build things, which is putting several significant strains on development teams.

Utilizing insights from hundreds of innovators featured in the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design,” this infographic explores some of the major challenges businesses are facing when creating smart products, as well as what’s being done to improve the process. You can download the full infographic here.

As part of an ongoing series, we’re looking at insights and trends uncovered within the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design.”

If the TV network that brought fire-spitting, flying dragons to life can get hacked, so can your product. For companies, that should be one of the takeaways from the recent headlines about the data hack of HBO, which has resulted in confidential leaks from hit shows like “Game of Thrones.”

One would think with all the previous, high-profile data thefts from entertainment industry goliaths, such as Sony and Netflix, other businesses dealing with sensitive, customer information would take the threat more seriously.

In the case of organizations building connected products, that’s not nearly the case, according to the recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design.”

In fact, less than a quarter (24%) of companies building smart products today say managing and securing the large amounts of customer data being gathered from sensors is a big challenge, according to the report. That means more than three-quarters of businesses creating connected devices may not be taking the risks of data management seriously.

“Consumers are right to be fearful of their privacy and whether or not companies are protecting their data,” says Jama Software’s Director of Security & IT, Philip Jenkins. “A lot of companies haven’t totally thought it through, and the capability isn’t always backed with strategy or intention.”

Creating A Plan

Aside from keeping up with the marketplace, one of the main benefits of developing connected products is having the ability to monitor how consumers are interacting with your creation in real time. Businesses can then analyze that data and make more targeted improvements for future product iterations.

If a company plans on collecting data through its smart product, one of the first steps should be devising a plan for doing so. Deciding what information to gather, where it will be stored, and how it will be secured are all topics that should be explored as part of this process.

Otherwise, indiscriminately collecting customer information and letting it sit somewhere like a database creates a liability for both your customers and business. After all, an amassed trove of consumer information is gold to hackers. They could turn around and sell it to a competitor, charge a ransom for its return, or just dump it onto the internet resulting in a public relations nightmare.

For businesses creating smart products, particularly those new to the process, all it takes is one security blind spot to open yourself up to a breach. And, given the complexities of today’s products and speed at which technology is progressing, no company dealing with user data is completely immune right now.

Consider, for instance, that the wildly popular photo-sharing service, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, recently discovered a bug in its API that allowed hackers to access contact information for millions of accounts, according to The Verge, allegedly including celebrity users like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Selena Gomez.

Update: The recent cyberattack on Equifax— one of the nation’s largest consumer credit reporting agencies— wherein hackers exploited a weakness in website software and gained access to the personal information of 143 million Americans, is another unfortunate example.

Threats to data security not only include team members, processes, products, and other facets of your organization, but also any third parties you’re entrusting with critical information. The Netflix hack, for example, occurred after someone had been scanning the web for computers running outdated versions of Windows software, and discovered one at a partner production company of the streaming giant, reported Variety.

Since it’s still pretty early in the onset of connected products, how companies gathering data are tackling these issues is very much being worked out in real time.

Lessons from the Auto Industry

Sometimes, the risk of a security breach can extend well beyond data. The automobile industry, for instance, has been a leader in integrating connected software into new vehicles, but not without some serious speed bumps.

In 2015, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) recalled 1.4 million vehicles due to a software vulnerability that allowed hackers to wirelessly break into automobiles and remotely control them, according to Computerworld. For its part, Fiat Chrysler issued a software patch to fix the hole, but it had to be downloaded to a USB drive, then plugged into a vehicle and uploaded.

An alternative solution for smart vehicle security looks to be software over-the-air (OTA) upgrades — which happen wirelessly, much like smart phone software updates. Several smart car automakers are moving to this option to save recall costs and reduce security risks, but it’s not without its issues either, such as the loss of revenue to car dealerships over repairs or customers voluntarily opting out of software upgrades in general. And, as the demand for technology like autonomous driving expands in the auto industry, cybersecurity issues will only play a bigger role.

Getting a Handle on Data Security

Smart vehicles aside, OTA upgrades can also be deployed to the firmware or software of other connected devices, resulting in benefits like a standardized upgrade process across products and faster time-to-market updates. Still, there needs to be a quick, easy, and secure way to run OTA upgrades, and businesses are still working on that process.

Another thing companies can do to get out in front of smart product security concerns is have their hardware and software engineers work closer together. Integrating hardware and software teams creates a better chance that the connected products being built are safer and more secure.

And if there’s even one positive thing to come out of a hack of a well-known, industry leader like HBO or Instagram, it’s serving as an alarm to other businesses. Unfortunately, in many cases, the organizations most concerned with these threats are the ones that have already dealt with the consequences.

Get a deeper look into the security issues companies developing connected products are facing, as well as the advice offered from leading industry experts, with our report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design.” The report also features insights from nearly 300 innovators from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, technology, healthcare, financial services, and more. 

As part of an ongoing series, we’re looking at insights and trends uncovered within the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design.”

Product development is already a stressful endeavor. For companies focused on merging hardware and software into smart products, it’s only getting more intense.

According to the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design,” nearly 90% of companies are either adding or planning to implement digital technologies to their products.

Given the new process and competitive landscape, 80% of those same businesses say they’re feeling extra time-to-market pressure. Not only that, but an even larger majority (89%) believes the strain will only grow in severity.

“There is pressure to always innovate and create the next generation version of your product,” Jama Software’s vice president of product, Jennifer Jaffe, says. “Sitting in that market is, by definition, a very uncomfortable place— specifically for a lot of companies who have been around a long time and who didn’t used to have all these pressures.”

Driving business concerns are fears of disruption. From cell phones to taxis, home energy management to automobiles, it can feel like no industry is immune to being blindsided by new technology. While companies can’t stop a savvy new competitor gunning for their position, how they innovate in response is crucial.

Software vs. Hardware

Traditional product companies are used to building hardware. When you add software development to the mix, there needs to be some alterations to the process.

That’s why one of the biggest priorities for businesses adding digital technologies to their products should be creating a plan to integrate the hardware and software teams. To do this, businesses must have a firm understanding of their existing development process, its necessary documentation, and logical gaps.

They’ll also need to recognize that software developers and traditional hardware developers work very differently. Figuring out how to unify these two practices, so they’re operating in tandem and not as opposing forces, is key. One of the best ways to do that is by having a method facilitating open communication and accountability.

“Most critical is having real time transparent communication, so that when things change on the software or the hardware side, all parties are informed and can adapt,” Jaffe says. “Without that collaboration, the two teams run the risk of working in isolation and developing products that are incompatible with each other.”

When to Innovate

Another area to consider when moving to connected products is not trying to start from scratch with every release. If a strong hardware platform has already been built, for instance, it makes sense to reuse it. Then, you can focus on incremental gains that can be handled in software updates.

“The more you can put the heavy lift of innovation on the software side,” Jaffe says, “The more likely you are to be able to respond quickly and create lots of different, compelling variants of your product’s experience — and do it as cheaply as possible.”

In that case, the product management team can set about envisioning the requirements of the future and brainstorm all the different use cases for the coming years. For instance, maybe that means creating hardware that can scale to accommodate a heaver usage on processing or memory. Then, looking ahead, if 80%-to-90% of the hardware requirements will basically remain unchanged, the development team can really be pushed to innovate on that extra 10%-to-20% of a new product.

This is also where a product development platform can really give developers an edge. With a simple, efficient solution for saving and reusing your hardware requirements, teams can focus on innovating iteratively.

That’s also why more than half of the companies going digital are partnering with software or other companies to assist with the digital transformation, according to “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design.”

What to Focus On

Today’s market is driven by consumer choice. Whether we’re talking about watches or coffee makers, customers have high expectations from products, and there’s a heavy push to constantly move forward. When one company’s product family goes smart, it almost feels inevitable competitors will too.

So businesses must listen to their customers to develop requirements. “The companies that are getting disrupted are oftentimes legacy companies whose business model, technical model, or both, don’t support newer methods for developing products,” Jaffe says. “And, specific to this idea of building to customer requirements, they’re companies that don’t have specific practices or tools to bring customer requirements to the forefront when they’re defining their product.”

Before production, then, companies should be putting prototype ideas in front of consumers for feedback on usability and value. And then running those customer requirements past engineers to sift through what’s feasible. Also, ensuring the requirements are documented in a clear way will keep various teams aligned throughout the process.

Moving Forward

All these shifts and crunches can significantly rattle a traditional product company not used to dealing with them. Keeping your team laser-focused on the evolving process will guide it to success.

“You have to prioritize the work that’s being done by your product development team and then not allow additional scope to creep in,” Jaffe says. “You really have to be judicious about the decisions you make, about what to prioritize, what to work on, and make conscious decisions to say no to projects that aren’t priority one for your development team.”

One thing that titans of any product category should avoid is kicking back with the belief that their winning days will be endless.

“A new, fresh company can come in today without all the legacy of old development practices, of old expectations of what it meant to serve a market,” Jaffe says. “Not only can they be more nimble and receptive on the technology front, but frankly, as a business, they can pivot quickly in the face of shifting consumer demand. That’s how they roll.”

Get a deeper look into the pressures driving companies to develop connected products with our report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design,” featuring insights from nearly 300 innovators from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, technology, healthcare, financial services, and more.

Bridging the Gap in Digital Product Design

Digital technologies are converging with traditional products at dizzying speeds. This fast-paced, integrated evolution is changing product development, and many companies are struggling to retain their footing.

Despite the shifting landscape, one thing remains clear: an excellent product requires a solid development process. Helping companies improve product development is at the heart of what Jama Software does, but we know this complex practice extends far beyond our platform.

To get a better feel for the methodologies and pain-points teams are facing creating connected products, we sponsored a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study. The resulting report, “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design,” features insights from nearly 300 innovators from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, technology, healthcare, financial services, and more.

What We Discovered

While we knew connected products were becoming more prevalent in our everyday lives, that trend has only just begun. A full 86% of organizations in our study have either applied digital technologies to their existing products or services, or are in the process of doing so.
86% of business and IT leaders are developing smart products or planning to
For many businesses, adding software to their physical products is already a challenging proposition. It’s compounded by stress from new competitors threatening disruption. To maintain an edge in this new reality, companies are being forced to act fast, and that’s placing significant strain on the development process.

In fact, 80% of those implementing digital technologies say they feel either somewhat or significantly added pressure to increase time to market for products and services. And an even greater majority (89%), expect that pressure to grow in the future. According to the report, some of the other big challenges businesses are facing with this transformation include ensuring new smart products work within the ecosystem of other connected devices, the clashing of traditional and digital product design, and trouble staffing and training the right employees.
89% of business and IT leaders expect somewhat or significant increases in time-to-market pressure from implementing digital technologies
When implementing any new process, there’s bound to be some unforeseen obstacles along the way. For instance, just 24% of respondents in the report identified the need to manage and secure customer data as a major challenge. The problem is many organizations may be underestimating this responsibility, according to Hans Brechbühl, executive director of the  Glassmeyer/McNamee Center for Digital Strategies at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, who was interviewed for the report. That’s because while the constant flow of usage data can be advantageous for informing future product iterations, companies inexperienced in managing this information may not realize the evident risks.

What’s Next

There are so many valuable insights and trends within “Bridging The Gap In Digital Product Design” it’s more than will can fit into a single post. That’s why we’ll be diving deeper into some of the themes and findings in the coming weeks with a dedicated blog series, featuring observations from Jama Software experts.

And let me know any feedback or questions in the comments below. With so many major industries refreshing product offerings with connected devices, the conversation about the best methodologies for improving and maintaining this process is just getting underway.