Riding the Product Development Life Cycle More Effectively
At one time, the idea of a product development life cycle, let alone product lifecycle management (PLM) was unknown. Product innovation was too rare and haphazard to evoke an organized process.
Needless to say this has changed. Product innovations are the lifeblood of many midsize firms, and PLM processes have become the norm. Innovative products are developed with awareness that they will in due course become obsolete and be withdrawn from service.
Even the now-traditional PLM process, however, is being challenged by the emergence of "smart" products. These products are smart by virtue of embedded computer systems and the software that runs on those systems.
The era of smart products brings new challenges to the product development life cycle. Traditional PLM dealt with managing the physical design process - specifications, materials requirement, and manufacturing considerations. All of these factors remain critical.
Smart products, however, require that PLM also deal with the software design process and development cycle that makes the product "smart." This cycle can be very different. A smart product can grow smarter when updated software is downloaded to run on it. Or, on the other hand, a product with fully capable physical components can fall behind because of software development deficiencies.
IBM's approach to PLM recognizes that this is an interdisciplinary process that must integrate systems engineering and software development. This integrated approach to smart product development has in turn led IBM to introduce the concept of insight and product innovation (IPI), and develop specific solution toolsets to aid in managing the development process.
Bringing Together the Process Components
Product development in the smart-product era means bringing together the elements of optimizing products, processes, and the organization itself. Product value and product differentiation has to be designed, managed, and finally delivered. The design-support loop has to be closed and completed. Finally, these processes need to be automated across the whole ecosystem of suppliers and contributors.
IPI supports these requirements by providing solutions for business planning and transformation, product and systems development, life cycle collaboration, and product support.
In broad perspective, what really underlies IPI, and smart-era PLM, is designing the design process. Not only do individual products need to be designed with an eye to their full development and usage life cycle, but also the product innovation process itself to be managed in a similar way.
With use of available solutions and toolsets, midsize firms can command the resources needed to take the innovation lead in the smart products environment.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.