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What Software Trends Are Important for Product Development?
FEB 17, 2015 09:01 AM
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What Software Trends Are Important for Product Development?
 
By Christof Ebert
 
Christoph EbertTo be successful in the software business, you continuously need to push efficiency and competitiveness. We talked to our clients from various industries, to identify where they are and what software technology trends are important for product development. Read some of the results in this blog:
 
These days, companies need to be doubly innovative: Both in technology as well as efficiency. Products and solutions have to meet more and more requirements, but need also to be designed for cost effectiveness, easy adaptability, and the ability to exploit advantages of emerging and dominant industry platforms. New competitors are entering markets with new solutions, which in some cases circumvent the dependence on legacy systems.
 
We talked to our clients from various industries, to identify where they are and what topics are important for product development. The result: Companies will continue to invest in growth through innovation by developing new products and solutions, because this determines their market position. At the same time they are aware of the volatile market situation and want their development teams across the world to be as lean and as efficient as possible.
 
In a current article in IEEE Software, which I co-authored with Siemens experts Gerd Hoefner and V.S. Mani, we cluster the technology evolution in software along five dimensions:
 
Collaboration—consumer Internet, social network interaction, single customer segmentation, configurators for products and services, digital money, computer-assisted collaboration tools, crowdsourcing
 
Comprehension—semantic search, big data handling, smart data, data analytics, data economy, online data validation, data quality
 
Connectivity—ubiquitous mobile computing, mobile services, cyber-physical systems, industry 4.0, machine to machine (m2m) communication, sensor networks, multi-sensor fusion
 
Cloud—applications and services in the cloud, location-based networks, new license models for software and application, sustainability, energy efficiency
 
Convergence—mobile-enterprise, bio-informatics, internet of things, pervasive sensing, autonomous systems
 
These five dimensions coupled with underlying complexity and global scale demand new software solutions based upon new computing paradigms and infrastructure. Examples include new IT architectures that facilitate seamless connectivity, robust infrastructures for cyber-physical systems in safety-critical environments, or data analytics to predict choices and behaviors to improve overall customer experience. 
 
Such software-driven solutions can create nontraditional market entry points and consequently entirely new mechanisms to address a single customer with time-specific and location-specific services. New products and services require new technologies that not only create numerous opportunities but also further boost complexity. Thereby, these solutions introduce new challenges, for instance with respect to information security, robustness, and usability. 
 
Security and robustness have tremendous impact on business decisions. The more we share and network, the more we are exposed to attacks of all kinds. The exploding need for secure software and protection schemes for our business processes, end-to-end, indicate this impact. Imagine automotive suppliers working on multi-sensor fusion connected to GPS and vehicle-to-vehicle communication to predict critical situations and foresee appropriate measures at situations where even the driver might not even be aware of what will happen.
 
Another example are service companies who leverage their sales channels to flexibly provide related services such as door-to-door transportation, or firms that offer a single service card for identification, payment, and access to services of various providers both physical and in the cloud. 
 
Focus on usability
 
Complexity and scale demand focus on usability. We already face situations where users without adequate training are forced to operate systems which they do not understand sufficiently to meaningfully assess risks and stay in control across normal day-to-day scenarios. Insufficient usability today is a major source of critical failures caused by humans in healthcare, transportation, and production plants. 
 
We have been working with clients on these challenges and helped them to better balance complexity with adequate business processes and technology advances. Companies that take the wrong decisions during a period of fast technology evolution and change will fall back or fail. Most selections involving human choices follow a “long tail” or 1/f distribution. First recognized by Vilfredo Pareto, the Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. 
 
When analyzing such long-tail distribution, we found that going from 20 to 100 features in a system adds only 10 percent of value. Steve Jobs was one of the few taking concrete lessons from this principle demanding simplicity in his products. Taking advantage of the advances in software technology means to improve lifecycle management. As an example from our client projects, let us look to lifecycle management and its impact on business from a software perspective. It addresses several of the above mentioned five dimensions of software technology advances, such as collaboration and convergence.
 
PLM and ALM are primary mechanisms
 
Product and application life-cycle management (PLM and ALM) is the primary mechanism for integrating business processes, tools, and people across the domains of system, software, hardware, and mechanical engineering. Unfortunately PLM and ALM often are not well introduced. Companies believe that with a tool and the necessary IT interfaces, all issues will be resolved. However, this is not the case, and the high percentage of abandoned technology change projects shows the criticality of professional change management. Far too late many companies realize that the major challenge in ALM/PLM is not the tool but the change needs in competences and culture.
 
The following example shows the significance: A supplier introduced model-driven engineering based on a modern tool environment that enabled seamless collaboration across development centers and with partners and customers. Cost-effectiveness was evident up-front because the system was going to provide faster access to data while the improved change and configuration control was expected to result in less defects and reduce budget overruns. 
 
However, after the introduction phase, though a tools environment was available, it did not deliver useful models. Engineers were still modeling functionality like before, without much modeling methodology. 
 
What happened? The tool was designed to support the development and was integrated towards a company-wide engineering system. Not only developers but also product managers and project leaders could not work with the tool and created parallel systems for their documents, which they exchanged between one another using traditional methods. 
 
The solution would have been effective, if before introducing the new tool it had been made clear, which processes had to be supported and how these processes had to be first improved and then automated.
 
Here some concrete recommendations: 
Intelligently and incrementally introduce ALM and PLM in your product development – and beyond. Focus on critical components, continuity of requirements to code and test cases, and improving processes in parallel. First improve the process and then the tools, based on concrete improvement objectives that are set, measured and used to correct deviations. Support developers and ensure continuous improvement. 
Ensure consistency of features and products with a strong systems engineering approach. Specifically, in distributed collaborative environments we see huge benefits from a single repository for consistent requirements, specifications, and models across all versions. Use tools to appropriately model the different levels of abstraction, from functions to logic, from architecture to implementation. 
- Evaluate tools based on your own requirements under realistic conditions. Support the interfaces to the various components and processes through traceability, automatic consistency checks, and test automation. 
- Manage the necessary change and transformation process across the entire organization. Pilot the changes in process and tools, coach and train engineers, recognize power users who will set the pace. 
 
Faster implementation
 
The ability to successfully implement innovations in a short time is now the all-important competitive factor. Innovations are not only new products and optimized processes, but also entirely new basic technologies, such as we see in electrical vehicles, in communication networks, or even in the intelligent use of energy. Insufficient use of road maps, unmanaged complexity, and cost-cutting in the wrong areas lead to a situation where a significant proportion of research and development expenditure does not lead to successful innovation. 
 
Customers in various industries complain about cycle times from idea to market being too long. 20-40 percent of the overall total cost structure of customers can be addressed by techniques such as lean innovation. This is an enormous savings potential that can be raised effectively. It is not the number of features that determines the success of a product, but the few that differentiate it from others. 
 
Contact me at christof.ebert@vector.com for more information or to discuss these trends.
 
Resources
 
 
 
Christof Ebert is managing director at Vector Consulting Services. He supports clients around the world to improve product strategy and product development and to manage organizational changes. Prior to that, he held global management positions for 10 years at Alcatel. A trusted advisor for companies around the world, member of industry boards, and professor at the University of Stuttgart, Dr. Ebert authored several books including his most recent book “Global Software and IT” published by Wiley. Contact him at christof.ebert@vector.com.
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