Jan Bosch is research center director, professor, consultant and angel investor in start-ups. You can contact him at jan@janbosch.com or follow him on janbosch.com/blog, Linkedin (linkedin.com/in/janbosch) or Twitter (@JanBosch).

Opinion

Better every day

Leestijd: 3 minuten

Especially in the embedded systems industry, the approach has traditionally been to build products that get worse over time. We design, manufacture and sell a product to the customer, it slowly deteriorates and then we sell the customer a new product several years later (see figure 1). Even though the next product will be better than the last one, in between purchases, the customer is experiencing a continuously deteriorating product value. Although this approach has been the norm for decades, it has several challenges associated with it. Many in industry are aware of these, but often view them as immutable.

One of the important challenges is lack of clarity concerning customer value. As product development cycles tend to be measured in years, many decisions are taken within company walls based on an often qualitative understanding or set of beliefs as to what constitutes value for customers. As the beliefs tend to be qualitatively formulated, different teams often have different priorities concerning the factors constituting customer value, causing suboptimal or even contradictory decisions concerning the product. For example, in one case, a company had one team working on improving performance and another on increasing security. For a variety of reasons, these teams managed to negate each other’s progress resulting in no customer value despite significant investment.

A second important challenge is high risk. Companies invest hundreds, if not thousands, of person years of effort in the development of the next generation of a product without any real evidence that the decisions taken during development are the correct ones. Only after the start of manufacturing and sales will the company get real customer feedback, often expressed in sales numbers rather than tangible feedback on the product.

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