Editor’s Note: This post about how to optimize product development was originally published here on DevOps.com on July 31st, 2020, and was written by Josh Turpen, Jama Software’s Chief Product Officer.
Systems engineers have faced complexity since the dawn of time. And while bringing complicated projects to market under old rules, methods and technologies was never a walk in the park, today’s highly competitive market presents new challenges to prove the old rules of product development are defunct. In fact, a recent report from Machina Research, now part of Gartner, estimates the number of connected machine-to-machine devices will increase to 27 billion by 2024, up from 5 billion in 2014. The sheer increase in machine devices alone provides a clear picture of the importance placed on systems engineers to stay the course when navigating product development’s complex nature.
Within the constantly evolving modern product development system comes an increasingly intricate development process. Today’s system engineers are fighting to fit a square peg into a round hole by using old tactics to solve new challenges. This includes an accelerated rate of innovation, increasingly complex end user asks, tighter deadlines and ever-changing regulations. Alongside these challenges, Forrester Consulting found that product development is facing five main obstacles in keeping teams from true optimization:
- The confusing and constantly changing nature of requirements and a lack of quick development for solutions.
- Stakeholders providing conflicting priorities, assumptions and unclear objectives.
- Difficulty collaborating across globally distributed teams.
- Unnecessary handoffs and delayed decisions.
- The increased need for collaboration across diverse roles.
So what is the solution to these problems, you ask? One could argue strategic team collaboration is the best way to address both the challenges of the modern product development landscape and the obstacles systems engineers are facing. Let’s dig into that a bit deeper.
Team Collaboration: An Enabler of Innovation
Teams that are still operating with outdated strategies and systems find themselves unable to adapt and adjust quickly when the market changes. With rapid growth predicted to stay at a steady rate, strategic collaboration allows companies to build partnerships and seek solutions that are adaptable and specialized. This includes sharing data throughout your whole business, including distributed teams and partner organizations, which allows transparency to reach the entire supply chain. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing supply chain halts and the backup of product releases, it is now more important than ever to ensure communication throughout the entire development process.
With the country leaning on a remote workforce more heavily this year, virtual meetings and emails are not sufficient enough as communication tools for a team that has to coordinate across departments, roles, companies and geographic boundaries. As a first step to meet these demands, system engineers should consider the following strategies:
- Ask your team the question, what does success look like? If each member has a different end goal, you will end up wasting valuable time. By defining what success looks like, you can align your teams on what you are building and clarify expectations upfront. This saves time and allows for better communication across teams.
- Support better decision-making through situational awareness. When you have communication upfront about a team’s end goal, they are far more likely to make decisions that work toward achieving that. Without situational awareness, employees are unable to comprehend the impact of their decisions or clearly define their roles and responsibilities. This makes it difficult to settle on the right choice when faced with a bump in the road.
- Ensure you’re up-to-date with your traceability practices. Especially for those who need to adhere to regulations, traceability analysis allows you to ensure your system holds up under regulatory demands. Further, it meets contractual terms before you encounter a problem.
- Create collaboration with a purpose. Ensure relevant data is accessible to everyone to whom it may be relevant, and keep them in the loop on decisions that happen outside the process as much as possible. When you keep your teams in the know, they are able to work collaboratively and with greater situational analysis.
At the end of the day, your goal should be to empower your whole team through data sharing, transparency and a clear definition of success. When you are able to do this, your team will be better positioned to make decisions that benefit the project and work symbiotically across diverse roles.
We may not be able to predict exactly where the product development industry is going, but know that there will be rapid innovation. It’s best to prepare your teams now; otherwise, it will be a bumpy ride.