The challenges are significant. Maintaining product integrity is tough. To ensure that the business sees ROI from new products, they need to actually make it off the production line. This takes careful coordination and lightning fast reflexes. Every seemingly tiny development decision adds up to features getting dropped or stretched in ways that break the original business value and intent. When your organization is running fast, at scale, across continents or industries or disciplines or supply chains, you are in the modern world of complex product delivery.
According to a May 2013 report on disruptive technologies from the McKinsey Global Institute, the number of connected machine-to-machine devices has increased 300% since 2008. As software becomes more and more embedded into technology, the rate of innovation accelerates. Software makes products do more, faster, while also escalating rates of delivery. Connected software has also evolved customer expectations around hardware technology. They expect seamless interaction with technology solutions across form factors and devices. They expect their technology will constantly evolve or update postpurchase. Delivering these products to market requires new teams operating at different cadences and introducing new methodologies and practices.
Many organizations have a hard time keeping up with the rapidly accelerating pace of change, especially when their teams still work in silos using outmoded systems. Product delivery is still often plagued by preventable delays, which can make or break your business.
In this paper we map out a number of key considerations for embracing modern Product Delivery to optimize project management and product development, giving organizations a roadmap for building the right products, faster, to succeed in highly competitive markets.
Strategic Supply-Chain Collaboration is Key
The demand for highly functional device performance requires deeper collaboration among teams developing products. This includes everyone across the supply chain. Companies actively look to partner and build integrations for specific expertise to meet business demands. They seek materials solutions using fewer commoditized materials and more specialized materials. This translates to greater sharing of project and product data across teams, across partner organizations, and across business units (which incidentally span multiple sites on different continents).
Processors, sensors, memory and power management subsystems are being pushed to get smaller, cheaper and consume less power. These demands have ripple effects throughout the supply chain—subsystem suppliers not only have to anticipate the features on finished product but also get ahead of release timeframe and component costs.
With increased focus on getting to market faster and customer-driven development, complex manufacturers can gain the edge by aligning business objectives with development itself. Increased levels of collaboration throughout the supply chain are central to R&D efforts as companies look to share the development costs and drive toward innovative solutions. Additionally, the new focus on software dramatically impacts development throughout regulated industries, which will only intensify in the future. In this new paradigm, increasingly focused, crossfunctional collaboration and faster product delivery are the key enablers of innovation.
Obstacles to Optimized Product Delivery
In a recent survey conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Jama Software, “unclear or changing requirements” was the most common reason cited for product delays. Communication issues within organizations and teams were also cited as significant obstacles affecting product development and delivery. Delayed decision-making, coordination problems and shared resource conflicts are preventable, but they happen all the time. In many companies, collaboration only occurs when the right people finally find time in their over-scheduled days for a one-hour conference call—and then, half the time is wasted rehashing past decisions.
Forrester Consulting reports five main factors that contribute to product delays:
- Product teams often lack a clear understanding of customer needs. Unclear or changing requirements plague product delivery. Not being able to get timely feedback on possible solutions results in delays and wasted time, effort and money.
- Conflicting priorities caused by stakeholder disagreements put product delivery teams in an unfortunate bind. Lack of clarity about objectives, assumptions and possible solutions leads to a lack of focus.
- Effective collaboration spans roles, teams and geographies. Modern products are complex, requiring a wide variety of expertise to deliver successfully. The reality of the global marketplace means that co-located development is rare; globally distributed teams are increasingly commonplace.
- Unnecessary handoffs and delayed decisions reduce speed and impair quality. Rapid delivery is increasingly a competitive differentiator.
- Delivering winning products requires unprecedented collaboration across diverse roles, spanning the organization from executives to operations and from marketing to quality assurance.
In modern organizations, executives highlight the strategic role of products as business objectives. Product delivery is a competitive advantage for market leaders, innovators and disruptors. It is crossfunctional, spanning executive management, sales, marketing, service, support and operations in addition to the traditional product management, development, QA and release management functions.
Strategies for Modern Product Delivery
We’re now looking at a paradigm shift: product delivery is fully collaborative, with live data shared and accessible to all teams at all times, crossing geographic boundaries. Companies work together throughout the entire life cycle of a product — from concept to launch — to make sure their efforts deliver business value. The software used here is the key differentiator and an enabler. This transformation is Modern Product Delivery.
Product delivery is a competitive advantage for market leaders.
Modern workforces collaborate, they communicate across departments and teams, they understand customer needs and they work together throughout the entire process. Disruptive technologies are not seen as a threat but as an opportunity. Change is embraced rather than managed. The “old way” of sharing documents via email attachments and having meetings to discuss decisions — that doesn’t work when you need to move fast. Decision-making needs to happen in real time and everyone impacted by that decision or change needs to find out about it immediately — in the tools they are working in. Whether they are mobile, tied to their email or living in Agile developer tools, they still stay connected to the rest of the team in modern product delivery environments.
We are redefining product delivery to stay relevant, stay innovative and remain profitable. We are changing the way we work, to find ways to be faster, manage complexity so we can innovate and better understand customers. The good news is that product teams within complex manufacturing industries can start evolving right now to be faster, manage complexity and better understand customers.
Start With These Practices for Immediate Impact:
Establish a Common Definition of Success
The core of development — define / build / test — needs to be solid. In addition to defining all the features and functions, take time to understand, define and share the “Why.” Approach development with a strong viewpoint of what success looks like based on feedback loops—customer interviews, value testing, design reviews. Build with a very strong view of what outcomes the product should deliver to your customers. Most importantly, define and clearly communicate the business outcomes your product needs to achieve. Teams need alignment —business with product development, hardware with software, systems with components, buyers with suppliers—on what they are building so they don’t waste time on lower-importance features. When you define the why, you deliver faster.
Empower Better Decision Making
If you and your team have a clear understanding of the “Why,” you can cut through discussions, trust that team members will make the right decisions and navigate through technical complexities. Allow team members to make fast, high quality decisions with an understanding of acceptable tradeoffs. Decisions don’t happen in a vacuum. Business leaders need full visibility into the progress and tradeoffs under consideration in development, and definers and developers should have full visibility into the expectations of the business. Decisions need to be captured and assigned owners, so everyone involved can initiate and record follow-on questions to visible resolution. Change is constant. Take time to define clear decision-making responsibilities, but push decision making as far and wide as possible. Good decisions need context or situational awareness, an understanding of impact and a way to get input from others. By providing context, strong relationships, and understanding the why, your teams will be able react to the new information more effectively for better outcomes. Waiting for a bi-weekly status meeting or change control board to make decisions slows down product delivery.
If you’re operating in a regulated industry, it’s crucial you demonstrate compliance to specific governmental, environmental, security or privacy regulations. You need traceability analysis that proves you have tested your product against regulatory demands and that your deliverable meets the terms of a contract. In development, traceability generally refers to engineering activities such as change impact analysis (examining dependencies to resolve issues arising from changes), change and risk analysis (supporting general engineering and management reporting procedures) and verification (requirements have test cases, epics have stories, systems have components, components have sub-components). Coverage analysis helps teams find gaps and understand positive and negative progress, and many of these “events” require a follow-up action to either close the gaps or determine contingencies and next steps. In modern product delivery organizations, traceability is much more than the engineering processes. Traceability also links all these activities back to the business rationale. Does this test fulfill customer needs? Does it accomplish business goals? When everyone across the organization involved in product delivery is connected, each individual can quickly reach out to teams or individuals for faster decision-making and evaluate all the up and downstream implications of decisions.
Collaboration With Purpose
Collaboration is the layer that brings everything together – people and data. The key to purposeful collaboration is keeping communication connected to the work. In modern product delivery organizations, collaboration ties the conversations and communication directly to the specific requirement, specification or use case in question. Decisions are not made outside the process or stored in locked documents or email. The conversations stay connected to the work itself for ready access and understanding.
Companies leading the pack find ways to reuse their IP at every level. It started with code reuse, but now we see customers reusing entire IP blocks—design artifacts, specifications, test cases, content for data sheets and process information— at the outset of new development. With purposeful collaboration integrated into product delivery tools, the entire context of product development can be reused. Every conversation, every decision about changes can import into new projects, so teams can be confident they are using only the latest approved and validated information. Companies effectively reusing IP shave development time by as much as 80%. With best practices built on reuse, organizations have a repeatable template for success.
The bottom line is that Product Delivery is a business issue; it cannot live in the development world and absolutely needs to be a strategic priority. Products will not get built faster or better by throwing more technology resources at the development and product teams. The biggest takeaway is that these challenges are solvable. Customers are transforming their businesses to innovate and out-compete. Change is happening in the enterprise. At the end of the day, your business builds value from what you deliver to the market, so there’s nothing much more important than doing this right.