Tag Archive for: VDC Research

Tight timelines. Fewer human resources. Rising costs.

These are the top challenges the Consumer Electronics (CE) sector faces when it comes to product development, says new data from VDC Research.

But the outlook is not all bad. Success can be achieved if companies are willing to implement modern processes that will enable them to take important steps forward.

If they can do this, they’ll realize benefits such as:

  • Greater visibility
  • Improved efficiency
  • More effective collaboration
  • Better requirements management

Take a look at the infographic below for details on the data and how CE companies can surmount the barriers before them.

Download the infographic here.

This article series is based on the findings of a VDC Research report, “Developing for Success in Consumer Electronics.”

Consumer electronics manufacturers are facing new hurdles in getting their products out to market and into the hands of customers. More than ever, consumers are expecting rapidly advancing functionality and innovative new applications to be released quickly and frequently. At the same time, they also want these products to be affordable and eminently functional.

This puts multilateral pressure on both developers and manufacturers, who must continually innovate, often with a lean staff, to deliver better products all while keeping the price point appealing to the end-consumer.

A recent report by VDC Research, highlights a few methods to improve the existing development lifecycle to meet these challenges. When used in concert, these approaches can increase the likelihood of success with consumer electronics development projects.

Development Platforms and Plans

For starters, using a modern product development tool facilitates engagement between stakeholders. This makes key development items readily available to those who need access to the information to provide timely feedback.

Rights management tools also support multiple teams with different core competencies, enabling more seamless communication and improving collaboration between groups working on different aspects of a project. This is a key step for hitting the many goals along the path to market for new products.

Next, a comprehensive testing plan ensures quality at key junctures throughout the development process and prevents costly, late-stage bug discoveries from derailing a project or adding time to already tight product cycle timelines. VDC Research says such a testing plan should tie in to the features tracked in the organization’s requirements management tool to enable quality assurance teams to verify the system functions as intended.

Using different test-tool types is also recommended to ensure a variety of bugs and security vulnerabilities are properly addressed. The report suggests these tests be carried out early and often, to catch problems before they become project-delaying disasters.

Software Improvements

Lastly, VDC Research advises consumer electronics companies to improve the management of software supply chains, as software content needs are accelerating more rapidly than developers can keep pace with through internal coding alone. The combination of tight deadlines and limited team resources means, in order to hit all of the targets, code generation must be streamlined and sometimes come from sources beyond an organization’s own in-house coders.

Using more code generated by modeling tools, re-used from other projects, or acquired from third-party sources can help companies improve efficiency and meet expanding software requirements.

To avoid adding liability, security or vulnerability issues along the way, teams must carefully manage the process and use automated test and composition analysis tools to track code’s origin and ensure it meets all compliance mandates.

It’s not impossible to improve efficiency while also meeting evolving consumer demands in the consumer electronics space. With a few process tweaks, companies can take some of the pressure off development teams and ensure the finished product is delivered on time, on budget, and as problem-free as possible.

Download report: Developing for Success in Consumer Electronics

This article series is based on the findings of a VDC Research report, “Developing for Success in Consumer Electronics.”

Time-to-market pressures are a constant source of concern for product and software developers. The period between a product’s inception and public release is shrinking, and the dearth of developers, engineers, and coders allocated to tackle this challenge is requiring organizations to turn more and more to collaborative solutions to get the job done.

This transformation comes in the form of increased adoption of Agile software development methodologies and improving team integration from different engineering domains. These changes enable companies to efficiently complete the mountain of tasks required to get a product to market quickly and successfully.

However, according to a recent VDC Research report, the consumer electronics industry has been slower to embrace these methods than other industries. In fact, the report’s survey respondents in consumer electronics had the lowest adoption rate among all embedded industries.

Changing Standards, Changing Expectations

That may shift soon, as rapid change in industry standards and expectations are forcing holdout companies to start adopting new collaboration practices in earnest, or at least begin adding aspects of these new methodologies to their existing processes. Hybrid, or multimodal model development, processes are now being created to enhance collaboration, and include extensive preplanning or requirements documentation, along with stand-up meetings, sprints, and retrospectives.

Bringing in disparate teams — often located in different geographies or not full-time employees of the companies they’re coding for — requires a higher level of coordination to ensure the right hand is talking to the left. It’s also important to make sure all teams are making the most of their efforts without doubling up on tasks or repeating work that already completed by another team at a different site. Beyond those challenges, stakeholders are demanding detailed, real-time progress reports of these teams to ensure the projects are being completed efficiently and on time.

To meet these rigorous demands, as well as those of the end-consumer, alternative methods to completing projects are coming to the fire. Code generated by modeling tools, re-used from other projects, or acquired from third-party sources, are all options for helping developers meet the demands of expanding software requirements. However, these methods must be done cautiously to avoid potential liability, security, or vulnerability issues. That’s one of the reasons why risk assessments are a critical component of this multi-faceted method of development, and an integrated product development platform can be helpful in tracking code origins and providing traceability audits to ensure compliance mandates are met.

This traceability cannot be completed solely in-house, as consumer electronic device failures can have safety-critical consequences. By employing traceability data, teams finding and fixing software bugs can quickly find potential vulnerabilities and determine where else they might be located. But this solution is not a panacea — many organizations have difficulty effectively managing traceability across their development lifecycle, according to the VDC Research study.

Out With the Old, in With the New

Existing practices include the use of in-house tools or commercial software like Microsoft Word or Excel, but these methods are becoming less feasible as variant management needs and system dependencies bridge multiple engineering domains, as well as the number of applications facing compliance verification.

Lifecycle Traceability of Requirements Engineering

The number of organizations focusing on establishing collaborative development processes is on the rise. Integrated teams are helping the consumer electronics industry re-shape their practices to ensure products are delivered on schedule and free of bugs, which are too often discovered late in the process, and can require costly and time-consuming recoding.

As the industry catches up to other markets in the collaboration space, the result should be cohesive teams working together on solving issues before they become major calamities.

Download report: Developing for Success in Consumer Electronics

This article series is based on the findings of a VDC Research report, “Developing for Success in Consumer Electronics.

Engineers, manufacturers, and developers are being forced to rapidly adapt to keep pace with consumer demands for security, connectivity, and functionality. New practices must be adopted to replace outdated, inefficient ones that simply no longer meet the evolving requirements of the end consumer. If these methods aren’t implemented quickly and correctly, consumer electronics makers risk falling behind.

In the world of consumer electronics, with shrinking time-to-market windows and razor-thin profit margins, time is money. Yet consumer electronics engineers report the worst project schedule performance of any industry according to VDC Research’s Software and System Development Survey of 619 engineers, in which 55.9% of respondents report their current projects are behind schedule.

This is a major issue, and the reasons for it are manifold, but the bottom line is simple: many organizations in the consumer electronics industry are not taking key steps to position themselves for success.

55.9% of consumer electronics engineers report their current projects are behind schedule

Building Pressure From All Sides

In addition to tight profit margins, which influences hiring, scheduling, and strategic investment decisions, a lack of manpower contributes greatly to the ability of an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to stay on deadline.

VDC Research’s survey respondents reported an average of 15.5 engineers per project, as compared to an average of 24.4 in other industries. Increasing consumer demand for new and better products also puts pressure on OEMs from the other side, forcing companies to work quickly, with fewer workers, to crank out products faster than they would like, sacrificing key project preplanning in the hopes of saving critical weeks and months.

The effect of this truncated timetable often results in the need to revisit products for necessary changes that weren’t readily apparent at early stages in the process, as would be the case if there was more time to sort out those issues earlier on. This leads to further delays, constricting the timetable of future projects even more.

This challenge for software engineers stems, in part, from its ubiquity, particularly when it comes to web and IoT applications. Not only does software account for an ever-increasing proportion of overall development costs, but the demand for rapid innovation in this space is already high and increasing all the time. Software updates are the most efficient way to add functionality to consumer electronics products already out in the wild, so their effective implementation and distribution becomes key with the timetables faced by OEMs to get their products to market.

Facing all the above challenges — lean staffing, tight budgets, and aggressive production schedules — engineering teams find themselves clamoring to increase output and efficiency of the software while at the same time continuing to improve the quality.

Rising to the Challenge

So how can developers and engineers rise to meet these challenges and hit their moving targets? Improving collaboration among teams can go a long way to speed up iteration through their design processes. This can be achieved, in part, by using a modern product development platform. These solutions must be highly accessible, so a variety of stakeholders can easily find information and provide real-time feedback.

Implementing automated testing linked to these tools can also ensure quality assurance teams get a look at emerging products — warts and all — to be sure the products going to market are operating as expected. Ideally this happens as early in the production stage as possible to catch problems and implement necessary fixes to products ready to be pushed to market.

Another option for better and more efficient product development is for companies to look beyond their in-house coding teams, even incorporating external sources to improve the efficiency of their development staff.

In order to improve these processes, the existing way of doing things must be carefully scrutinized and adjusted to meet the rigorous demands development teams are facing. By implementing new processes — and scrapping others that don’t work efficiently — outcomes can be improved.

Download Report: Developing for Success in Consumer Electronics