The global market of software-driven product systems is growing at a staggering pace. This is in part due to manufacturing automation, widespread adoption of the Internet of Things, and an ever-growing demand for portable computing devices. Companies looking to stay ahead of the curve are integrating their software and hardware development efforts to deliver quality integrated systems. This can be challenging due to different approaches and mindsets. Read on to find out our top 3 tips for integrating parallel development streams!
Companies that specialize in digital product delivery are under more pressure than ever to create software-driven products and bring them to market as quickly as possible. In the future, many products will be driven by software to a far greater degree than today. Although this means that product complexity will inevitably increase, methods exist that allow this complexity to be managed reliably. More and more products are considered system-of-systems products with mechanical, electronic, and software components. As a result, many organizations are now looking for ways to align and integrate their hardware and software development efforts. Why take on the challenge? Simply put, in order to balance time to market and customer experience with the most optimized development processes and highest quality end products possible.
You probably already know this but changing hardware isn’t as easy as changing software. Hardware products are physical objects which cannot just be tweaked after they’ve been manufactured – developers need to go through the whole process again to create a new version. Also, it often takes up to 8 weeks to update hardware to be able to handle new features, because it takes time to collect feedback, source necessary parts, manufacture, test, and order new pieces again. This makes it extremely tricky to keep both processes on track, especially since software is often changed and updated every two weeks or so. This dependency can create delays in the whole process.
Project management is typically less complicated for software product managers than their hardware equivalent. Or at the very least, they tend to have more responsibilities and areas to coordinate than software teams do, such as electronics engineering, mechanical engineering, product assembly, packing, shipping, and more. There are also key differences in product development methodologies used. The Waterfall approach is still often used by hardware teams, even if their products contain embedded software, while software teams usually use the V-model or Agile methodologies. This disparity in methodologies makes it tricky to get both teams on the same page and align their development efforts, but it is possible with a good deal of organization, supportive tooling, and a significant mindset shift.
Planning and budget
Hardware and software cost models are quite different, affecting planning, budgeting, and getting stakeholders' buy-in. The cost of software development is pretty constant over time and typically increases suddenly toward the end of the development cycle. Hardware costs are usually higher and fluctuate more throughout the course of a project depending on the complexity of the product and how readily available materials are. This makes balancing cash flow and necessary resources more complex for hardware teams and businesses since they have to worry about things like deadstock (items that won’t be used or sold) while software teams only really need to be concerned with the cost of team resources, marketing operations, and necessary tools.
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