Successful Products Start with Requirements and Validation

Written By: Michelle Boucher
  • 6/6/2016

Today’s global economy has created many opportunities, but has also created significant competitive pressures. New global competitors as well as innovative start-ups with lower barriers to entry with options such as Kickstarter, mean companies must work harder than ever to ensure products stand out. Companies need product strategies that keep them competitive. Tech-Clarity’s study, Product Lifecycle Management Beyond Managing CAD asked how companies differentiate themselves: 

What’s interesting is companies rely on product centric approaches that focus on getting the product right for customers. While still important, getting to market quickly is no longer enough. With this in mind, requirements and validation engineering are critical to enabling critical product differentiation. There are many options for a requirements and validation solution and selecting the right one for your business can be overwhelming. To help determine selection criteria, for a requirements and validation solution, check out Tech-Clarity’s Expert Guide to Requirements and Validation.

Today’s most common requirements management tools are Excel and Word. They work very well for defining requirements, but often fall short when managing requirements. I’m reminded of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry reserves a rental car, but then finds there are no more cars.  He responds, “You see, you know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation. And that's really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.” Like holding a reservation, it’s really the management of requirements that’s the most important part. It’s key to developing products customers want.

So why is requirements management so difficult? Growing complexity.  Sources of complexity include:

  • Increasing number of components
  • Multiple engineering disciplines including mechanical, electrical, and software
  • Varying customer preferences including regional and global markets
  • Growing number of regulations

It’s a lot to manage and getting it right starts with managing requirements, especially as they change. Failing to manage complexity comes at a significant business cost as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Impact of Increased Complexity (Last Five Years)

With the right tools to support requirements and validation, companies can achieve significant business value. Some ways investments in requirements management and validation payoff include:

Get to market more quickly

Tech-Clarity’s study, Reducing Non-Value Added Work in Engineering finds that 32% of engineering time is spent on non-value added work, which includes:

  • Searching for information (23%),
  • Collecting data for others (18%)
  • Incorporating changes made by others (14%)
  • Recreating data (12%)

Imagine the productivity gains with 1/3 more development time. Requirements management helps reduce non-value added work in many ways. It provides a single source of truth across engineering disciplines so engineers aren’t wasting time searching or gathering requirements for other people. Automatic change notifications mean people aren’t wasting even more time with outdated information or redoing work.  With requirements management with traceability and change impact analysis, the extent of a change can be assessed to support better decisions. This leads to greater efficiency and more focus on innovation work to implement requirements.

Improve product quality

Requirements management with traceability linking requirements to tests can have a positive impact on product quality. Linking to tests leads to better requirements definition and makes it easier to continuously validate. Problems are then found earlier, when they are easier to fix. Traceability also makes it is easier to confirm which requirements have been met and which haven’t so testing is more thorough. Then, when problems are found, tracing to the root cause is easier.

Lower costs

Efficiency means less development time which lowers development cost. Reusable requirements also saves time and cost. Traceability from requirement to deliverable means engineers can easily take advantage of existing validated work, saving the cost of development and testing. Additional savings comes from catching problems early, which minimizes expensive late stage changes. Finally, support for regulatory compliance that includes necessary audit trails and approval workflows reduces the cost of compliance and the risk of higher costs and other repercussions associated with noncompliance.

Develop more competitive products

Bridging across engineering disciplines with shared requirements means better collaboration so teams can take advantage each domain’s expertise. This leads to greater innovation. When requirements drive different product variants it’s easier to meet individual customer needs, driving more customer demand. Also catching problems earlier minimizes the risk of cutting important innovations that would drive revenue just so that a working product can ship.

The ROI of a fully capable requirements and validation solution goes well beyond what’s possible with spreadsheets and document editors. The improvements mean more competitive products with greater revenue opportunity and higher profitability. Companies can also enjoy an expanded window of revenue opportunity before products are replaced with an updated version of a competitive offering, something that can truly pay off.

  • Windchill
  • PLM

About the Author

Michelle Boucher

Michelle Boucher is the Vice President of Research for Engineering Software for research firm Tech-Clarity. Michelle has spent over 20 years in various roles in engineering, marketing, management, and as an analyst. She has broad experience with topics such as product design, simulation, systems engineering, mechatronics, embedded systems, PCB design, improving product performance, process improvement, and mass customization. Ms. Boucher is an experienced researcher and author and has benchmarked over 7000 product development professionals and published over 90 reports on product development best practices. She focuses on helping companies manage the complexity of today’s products, markets, design environments, and value chains to achieve higher profitability.