Assessing the state of Product Development

After spending many years working with the CAD/CAM/PLM vendors I am now turning my attention to users of the software.

In my experience with users from many industry specialties, which includes many in-depth conversations and a few handfuls of on-site consulting assignments, users are not taking full advantage of the software and related process tools to re-engineer their environments.

Introducing new tools into a flawed product development process is only a band-aid. Without re-thinking the entire process the latest and greatest software will only result in a nominal ROI.

Instead of thinking about the miniscule advantage of moving from 2D design to 3D design, or the introduction of the latest PLM system, users should instead focus on the overall business benefits that might best cause them to produce better, more timely, higher quality products that can beat the pants off their competitors.

Believe it or not, just a few nights ago I was explaining to my wife, during a long drive home from dinner, about what a difference better design makes. And she actually listened. I guess I was really charged up!

One subject that always fascinates me is how truly innovative products are developed and how often competitors cannot react to substantive changes. She and I both use iPhones, so she immediately connected with the product. Not only that, but she said she loved her iPhone. Never heard that about her Samsung 10 key phone. After reading earlier that day about the current travails of RIM, the maker of the Blackberry phones I explained how RIM and Nokia seem to once have led the mobile phone industry and now both are deeply troubled, and may had difficulty surviving. And all this only in the last few years. Both companies seemed to have missed the point that the iPhone is not really a mobile phone, but a computer that can also make phone calls. The technology and innovation embodied in this product made huge leaps over the then existing mobile phone technologies. And their large competitors failed to recognize it. Then they failed to react to it. What was it in their product development process that was flawed: management, engineering, competitive analysis, business planning???

Do you have similar flaws in your process? Should you be asking whether or not you do?

Lately I have been exploring the idea of developing techniques for how to assess this in user companies. I am becoming more and more convinced that by carefully examining the key processes in product development and comparing them to best in class techniques used by successful organizations that this can be accomplished, and at a reasonable cost.

I’ll explain more about my thinking in future articles. I would love to hear from you about what you think. Reply to this blog and let the rest of us know.

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