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Improving Quality and Reducing Time-to-market for Smart Products

Home smart product manufacturers shipped more than 805 million products in 2020, and to no one’s surprise, that number is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years. IDC predicts that 1.4 billion home smart products will ship by 2025. Companies are under more pressure than ever to innovate at light speed to avoid falling behind their competitors. And home products are just a portion of the overall smart product market.

We see time and time again that there are common challenges which impede time to market and affect overall product quality. These challenges prevent organizations from making accurate revenue predictions. A common theme among these challenges is siloed communication channels.

Smart product development requires clear sightlines

The life of a smart product line owner is rife with challenges. When you consider the many stakeholders necessary to bring the physical product and its connected components together, it’s clear that eliminating communicative blind spots is key to shortening time to market. One of the most common symptoms for smart product manufacturers is a fractured product development process. Smart products now incorporate technologies and engineering that are very new to the overall development process.

For example, a car is no longer four wheels and a motor. It’s a complex connected ecosystem that requires the expertise of stakeholders from a broad range of backgrounds and skillsets to produce. As with any project, the more people involved, the more difficult it is to meet deadlines and deliver a product that lives up to a certain standard of excellence.

Unfortunately, many organizations aren’t deploying processes that allow each group to communicate their assumptions, commitments and progress with the larger group or to gather input from other departments. As a result, teams are often hyper focused on meeting their goals without the context of how the entire product development process is progressing.

agile-smart-product-development_500x500-200x200The root of communication challenges is often found in disparate Agile methods, where specialists are imbedded into specific teams, often by function. While this makes sense on paper, this approach can impede innovation governance efforts. With Agile methods, expertise specialists are making decisions for the group’s direction, as opposed to someone who oversees multiple groups and can more objectively render decisions that will make the most sense for the overall product development lifecycle.

Beyond Agile methods, we are seeing far too many smart product manufacturers employing tools and solutions that have their own sets of data. These non-integrated tools only look at where their specific department is in the product development process. Each team should use smart product tools that pool and analyze data across departments to give an overall picture of where they are in developing a product.

Navigating the unexpected

When transparent communication exists between stakeholders, smart product manufacturers are more prepared to pivot in the event of an unlikely development. Even when all conditions are optimal, smart product development requires clear communication and collaboration channels, but it’s even more important when unexpected events force an altered direction.

Using the automotive example again, the recent microchip shortage has stalled production of certain models and has caused unprecedented factory shutdowns. Many automotive manufacturers are weighing the risk/reward of either shutting down production of new models or refactoring the vehicles without some of the connected features they anticipated.

To make a discontinue vs. refactoring decision, the status of each team responsible for the various physical and connected components needs to be represented in a way that decision-makers can determine next steps that will minimize the disruption caused by the shortage.

Smart products manufacturers that incorporate processes for unobstructed communication and collaboration also lower the probability of a recall. Because smart products have so many individual components, the likelihood of a recall is greater than a traditional unconnected product. Removing blind spots in the product development timeline helps to navigate potential problems before going to market.

The net effect of having unobstructed sightlines is that companies are more able to predict revenues for these products because they have the most accurate information possible. This is an even bigger concern for public companies, as miscalculations can impact stock price and create undue pressure from shareholders.

Smart product development will only grow more complex as capabilities and opportunities to connect them with other products expands. For manufacturers, it will be key to incorporate methods that shift each department’s concern beyond their own goals and expand it toward a greater understanding of how their progress impacts the entire product development process.

Sopheon’s Accolade for Smart Products positions organizations to circumvent risk factors that can slow time to market.



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