Five Takeaways from the State of Product Development Survey

Written By: Taylor Paglia
  • 10/5/2020
  • Read Time : 4 min

As we’re quickly approaching the end of 2020, the year will certainly be marked as a year that made a difference -- a difference in the way we live, work, and operate.

Notably, consumer habits have radically changed in a very short time amount of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many stores just now in the reopening phase, the desire to go into a physical store to purchase a product is at an all-time low.

According to the latest Digital Commerce 360 analysis, visits to the top 2,000 North American ecommerce sites jumped 19 percent overall and 125 percent on average, between the months of March and June 2020.

More than ever, product differentiation and modernization are crucial to grab the attention of online shoppers – and this extends beyond a marketing or sales task.

To better understand the challenges encountered by product development teams during these times, PTC’s Onshape® Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, commissioned the independent third-party research firm, Isurus, to conduct a broad-based industry survey, The State of Product Development & Hardware Design 2020.

Taking the pulse of nearly 1,000 product development professionals across the world, the survey offers an interesting look at companies’ self-reported strengths and weaknesses in the product development process.

Here, we’re highlighting five takeaways from the top engineering, design, and manufacturing concerns facing companies today.

Insight 1: Still Having Trouble Locating the Correct Version of Design Data? You’re Not Alone 

In these times, the value of the work that is being done -- and getting it done efficiently -- is more important than ever before. Time spent working on the wrong version of a design can lead to costly manufacturing errors, frustrating rework, wasted materials, and possible liability issues.

The survey results show that more than four out of five product development professionals have trouble locating the correct product design.

When it comes down to it, every minute that is spent on rebooting or dealing with version control is a minute lost on developing innovative products.

Insight 2: A Differing of Opinions – Executives and Individual Contributors See Product Design Problems Differently 

According to the survey, executives may be wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to identifying and assessing business-critical areas for improvement. While designers and engineers may be more critical of their company’s current capabilities because they are “in the trenches,” the drastic difference of opinion should sound alarms for executives.

When asked if individual contributors have access to the tools and data needed for the job, 70 percent of executives agreed that was the case, while 56 percent of engineers think otherwise.

Significant gaps in perception about table-stake fundamentals, such as company culture, access to new technologies, and the quality of collaboration should be on the radar of every executive.

Insight 3: Latency No Longer – Cloud-Based Productivity Tools Improve Early-Stage Communication 

Cloud-based productivity tools enable data to be instantly updated and shared, eliminating latency and ultimately improving overall communication. Instead of teams waiting for edits to be made and sent through on an individual design, cloud-based productivity tools allow for all comments to be visible and accessible to team members simultaneously.

In fact, the survey found over two-thirds of organizations say they are using at least one SaaS cloud productivity tool.

When using these tools, teams can eliminate confusion over which versions are the farthest along in the design history, which allows for productive iteration, and ultimately, product innovation.

Insight 4: Most Users Agree That PDM/PLM Systems Help Avoid Costly Mistakes, But…

Managing years of legacy designs and new projects often bog down the productivity of many firms using installed server-based CAD systems. Their add-on Product Data Management / Product Lifecycle Management (PDM/PLM) systems require cumbersome processes of “checking in” and “checking out” files, intrinsically restricting access and creating a slow editing process for collaborators.

As noted in the survey, half of companies use an add-on PDM/PLM system for data management, but three out of four users wish there were tools that provide a better way to manage and access their design data. 

There is an overwhelming desire from product developers wanting a data management system that helps avoid version control errors but doesn’t sacrifice efficiency as a result.

Insight 5: Confidence is Key. Cloud Productivity Tools Give Companies More Confidence in Their Ability to Support Remote Work

The term collaboration got a whole new meaning in the early 1990s thanks to the introduction of the World Wide Web – but the design and manufacturing world is far more complicated and advanced than it was decades ago. Pandemic aside, it is now becoming far less common for products to be designed and manufactured under the same roof, where questions to colleagues and new ideas can be heard and addressed after a short walk down the hall.

The most productive companies recognize a constant need to improve and are investing in the technology to facilitate those improvements.

Eight out of 10 companies using cloud productivity tools feel confident they are prepared to support their organization, regardless of where they are working from. 

Final Thoughts

The ability to be agile and respond quickly to unexpected or unforeseen conditions and requests has become even more important in 2020. SaaS CAD and data management platforms give product design teams near and far, the flexibility to work together from any location.

When downtime is minimized and communication is streamlined, the acceleration of the design process can be substantial.




  • CAD
  • Thingworx Developer
  • Electronics and High Tech

About the Author

Taylor Paglia

Taylor Paglia is a corporate communications specialist, supporting PTC through content development, thought leadership initiatives, and influencer relations. Previously, Taylor worked at a public relations agency, driving her clients internal and external communication plans.