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Connecting Distributed Teams in an Era of Accelerating Innovation

Ray Kurzweil—best-selling author, entrepreneur, futurist, inventor, and currently Director of Engineering at Google—famously made the point that technology is advancing more quickly than ever before. For example, the number of transistors on a semiconductor has been doubling about every two years for the past four decades in accordance with Moore’s Law. And, as Kurzweil points out in his 2005 book The Singularity is Near*, DNA sequencing, magnetic storage, fiber optics, optical switching, electromagnetic and many other technologies have also been growing at an exponential rate over the same period.

For consumers and patients, this accelerating pace of innovation delivers a torrent of better, faster, cheaper products and life-enhancing medical advances. For companies developing new products, it’s more of a mixed blessing.

The good news is that innovators can leverage the dizzying advancements foreseen by Kurzweil to add capabilities that would have been impossible to imagine only a decade ago: an automobile that automatically senses a pedestrian stepping into the road and applies the brakes; a replacement for missing sections of a jaw bone created by a 3D printer; a cellular antenna that directs its signal to a small geographic area, enabling the same frequency to be re-used many times to increase network capacity.

But, these same advancements have made products more complicated and more difficult to design than ever before. For example, UNIX v1.0 (1971) had about 10,000 lines of code, Windows NT 4.0 (1996) had around 11 million lines, and Mac OS X Tiger (2005) has 85 million lines of code.  All sorts of products—light bulbs, shirts, refrigerators, light poles, electric meters—are being connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), further increasing dependencies and intricacies. Regulations have also grown exponentially, both in number and complexity.

To thrive in an age of rapidly evolving technology, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original design manufacturers (ODMs) must embrace new technological advancements and evolve best practices for new product introduction (NPI). Many have created globally-distributed product development teams and supply chains to enable highly qualified experts from around the world to work together to overcome design and manufacturing challenges. A developer writing code that drives a Wi-Fi teakettle could be sitting around the corner from the engineer who created the mechanical design, or she could be 9,000 miles away in an office in Singapore. Other suppliers may be scattered at various points around the globe providing engineering design, sheet metal, coatings, or printed circuit board services.

These global teams often consist of a mix of suppliers, contract manufacturers, consultants, employees, and other partners. They have enabled many OEMs or ODMs to develop products that fully leverage today’s accelerating technological advances in the time frame, at the quality level, and at the price point needed to succeed in today’s marketplace. But the advent of globally-distributed new product development and introduction teams has created a new challenge: how to connect and synchronize the efforts of these contributors so that:

  • The entire product team is working on the same version of the product.
  • Each discipline is synchronized with one another wherever they interface.
  • Everyone is working on a timeline that leads to an on-time launch.
  • The product is designed from the ground up to meet regulatory requirements.
  • Tests are run at every phase to ensure the design meets the requirements.

Arena has helped more than one thousand innovative companies address these challenges by connecting the entire new product development and introduction (NPDI) team with a product realization platform that provides a single place to design, produce, and deliver high-quality products to market fast. This enables internal and external contributors to collaborate effectively around the latest product design, while ensuring regulatory compliance to meet quality, project, and compliance goals.

Does your company face the challenge of designing, validating, and building ever-more complex products on tighter schedules and budgets than ever before? Is your company struggling to coordinate distributed teams in this era of accelerating innovation? Please check out our new White Paper Breaking Down the Barriers to Product Innovation to find out how the Arena product realization platform can help break down the barriers to innovation and speed product launches.

[*] The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology