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September - 2007 - issue > Cover Feature
Making Critical Technology Decisions
Rafiq Somani
Monday, September 3, 2007
In today’s world technology has emerged a key enabler of process automation in any organization. The challenge for any business leader is to align technology deployment, scalability, and adoption based on current and future business dynamics. Manufacturing companies recognize that building and delivering great products is at the core of a successful business strategy. In any industry product development processes always remain the competitive edge and it is important for companies to ensure they continue to excel in it. Toyota Motor Corporation is one of the great examples for this.

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”- W. Edwards Deming.

The approach that can be followed by companies in making critical technology decisions for product development is to align technology roadmap with business goals. The companies need to identify key product development initiatives and determine the key processes and capabilities needed to execute them and show results. These goals can be identified by key value opportunities like growing market share with customer-focused products, developing new markets, or lowering product costs. These value opportunities will have a direct impact on top line or bottom line of the business.

The key initiatives in product development that support the identified value opportunities need to be assessed and prioritized. The initiatives could be: increasing adherence to quality standards and methods, improving design for manufacturability and serviceability. The next step will be to ascertain product development processes needed to realize company initiatives, and identification of highest priority processes with capability gaps through analysis. The processes could be detailed design and new product introduction.

Based on business importance and process maturity gaps, a roadmap can be identified for process optimization. In order to support this roadmap, capabilities in terms of technology infrastructure can be identified. Product development system supporting this roadmap needs to be deployed as a single integral system with all digital product information managed and controlled with process optimization.

This approach can help business leaders to align technology related decisions very tightly with business goals. The roadmap can help companies to measure the return of investments (ROI) from technology deployment with regard to process improvements. This will also help to improve process maturity based on the changing business dynamics.

Recently, a company wanted to determine their product development system to support value opportunities of developing new markets and simultaneously wanted to lower the lifecycle cost of developing and maintaining a product. The key product development processes to support this were program management, concept design, detailed design and manufacturing process planning. The maturity of these processes was way below the desired level. This helped the company to make technology decision to align with the roadmap to improve process maturity in phases. The components of product development system (PDS) required were in areas of distributed collaboration, requirements management, planning, visualization, configuration management, engineering calculations, and digital design. As each of the phases was deployed the company measured ROI and also assessed course correction based on the feedback.

Hence for critical technology decisions it is imperative to keep the business context in which it will be leveraged. Product development system based technology deployment is required to ensure scalability and business excellence, especially in product development. This is what will differentiate the financially successful organizations and the not so successful organizations. Only an effective combination of leading technology, process optimization capabilities, and adoption management ensures that a PDS will deliver business value quickly and efficiently.

He can be reached at rsomani@ptc.com

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