What is Integrated Product Development?
By:Kevin Thompson, Ph.D. – Chief Scientist, cPrime
A major challenge in the development of advanced-technology products is the integration of the software and hardware-development activities. Traditionally, companies develop large, up-front designs for both aspects of the produce, define interfaces between them, and begin development of the product. Integration and testing of the integrated product then happens at various milestones along the development path, until the product is complete.
Everyone knows that integration is difficult, and integration testing uncovers integration errors. The desire to prevent integration errors can lead to huge investments in up-front design and interface definition. Unfortunately, this approach mostly increases the product-development lifecycle without reducing integration failures much at all.
A better approach is to move towards the opposite extreme: integrate the hardware and software components as frequently as possible, in small increments, and even in real time as new integrations become possible. For example, we might transition a chunk of firmware code from an emulator to a processor on a prototype circuit board as soon as the processor has been soldered into position.
These “micro integrations” are easiest to manage if the different people involved work on the same team. We find that having electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and firmware engineers on the same Scrum team is an ideal way weed out integration errors as soon as possible.
The Scrum framework provides many advantages for integrated product development or integrated engineering.
- Micro-integration of hardware and firmware is easy and frequent
- The collaborative nature of Sprint planning resolves numerous questions quickly, and paves the way for smoother development work
- The short two-week time horizons (Sprints) simplify planning and enable rapid changes in direction when surprises occur
- The long-term focus on a specific product area maximizes team proficiency and productivity
- Scrum Teams make excellent building blocks for large organizations that employ dozens to hundreds of engineers that must collaborate to build large products or solutions for customers
In short, integrate early and often. It’s the best way to go. If you are interested in learning more about our agile hardware and integrated product development services, please feel free to Contact Us today!