Saturday, May 13, 2006

Product design and development - Prof Dan Whitney and Prof.Pat Hale

-We had the grande finale of the PDD class today . I thought all the teams did very well both in terms of content and presentation . Product design and development is about technique and temperament , BOTH.
Although I have been doing this for over a decade now , there is always something new to learn.
The best part I like about the class is a spirit of cooperation among competing teams creating a beautiful harmony all around . The concept of 'coopetition' , as taught by a management expert who conducted a workshop in the iap session this year , is a mix of 'cooperation' and 'competition' . The equivalent concept in Indian classical music is 'Jugalbandhi' . The way 'Jugalbandhi' works is as follows.
There are (at least) two artists on the stage . Each artist plays a note spontaneously and the other one is expected to repeat it using her own instruments or vocally . The notes get progressively difficult as the show progresses . There is thus competition among them but all of them are contributing to the harmony of the system and enjoying their own part .
Hear for example the maestros Balamurali Krishnan and Kishori Amonkar at

The day ended on a positive note for our team because our product happened to generate
a lot of interest among the audience. Of course rave reviews do not necessarily imply revenues,
I thought it was certainly a morale booster for the team .

Let's see how far the product goes.

Some of the lessons learnt are summarized below .

1.Pugh's concept selection technique taught by Prof.Pat Hale is very useful in software .
We , software guys just don't seem to do it enough . It can be applied to user interface design,
data model design , backend design . Also as part of the concept selection we need to consider
out of the box alternatives like , can this be done manually or using an spreadsheet ? Can this be done mechanically , electrically , biologically or electronically instead of doing via software ?

2.Prof.Whitney was brilliant in his treatment of design for manufacturing and his outsourcing model . I actually applied DFM to the HP's case study by Prof.Mary Tripsas and was among the
three guys in the class who got the org structure right .
DFM is an 80's concept but continues to pervade the world of manufacturing and supply chain.

Also Prof.Whitney's knack of hitting the nail on its head instantly is amazing .
Some examples from the class are -

1.He asked us why we did not use a linear program in our software . Exactly the approach that
the big vendors take.
2.He remarked that if one of the teams had used finite element analysis in the weight of the product would have reduced by at least a third .

3.Another lesson is , to get your product to be successful you need to ensure that the following
elements are successful .
3.A Politics (internal - Buy in of colleagues and superiors and external - customer and government)
3.B Company's financials
3.C Company's marketing strategy
3.D Engineering -



Yoav said...

Welcome to the blogosphere!

Yoav said...

"Pugh's concept selection technique taught by Prof.Pat Hale is very useful in software."

Really? Why do you think so?

Vinay D Deshmukh said...

I my mind , software professionals do not spend enough time thinking about alternate concepts - I mean concepts outside of software to accomplish the same thing . As an example the CEO of Intuit once said , 'Our biggest competitor is the check book' . So if check book was considered as an alternate concept in the design of the software , you would try and incorporate all the features in your software. Another example is excel spreadsheets as an alternate concept to GUI . We had realized that a lot of our customers were downloading data and rendering it using spreadsheet macros as opposed to using our GUI becuase the GUI was not as user friendly .

So excel spreadsheet was an alternate concept to GUI , something we should have been cognizant of .

A third example could be the following . A tree with a million nodes does not perform but a chip with a million transistors easily does . Can a tree be simulated using electronic components ? [I went down this path for supply chain software a few years ago but retracted due to various issues ]