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One Page Guide: Relationship management within the Development Team

 What’s the issue?

Relationship management in Electronics Product Development is critical. It is an incredibly fractious union because all concerned know there are risks and even a whiff of an entity not acting in the best interests of another can disrupt the dynamics of a team. Trust is critical. The four parties usually involved are the client, electronics hardware/firmware development team, product design (enclosures), and software development if it applies. Everyone is ecstatic at the outset for the following reasons:

  • The client is joyful because the project’s on its way and dreams of an imminent revenue stream seem just round the corner.
  • All the developers are happy because there’s development revenue.
If expectations aren’t managed, the problem start with the first challenge. No project ever goes smoothly – fact. Something will turn out to be more challenging than first expected – a problem will need resolution. In a good development team with managed expectations, good leadership, and rigorous specifications, it will just be a bump in the road. If otherwise, trust is damaged, and once trust is lost all is lost. The only sensible path when trust is lost is a parting of the ways – very sad and upsetting for all!. 
The unfortunate circumstance above doesn’t always happen at the beginning of a project – probably all for the best if it does. Unled, the engineering disciplines can adopt a silo mentality whereby they just look after their own ships. Electronics will look after electronics, product design will look after product design, and software will look after software. Things fall between the cracks and the client is left trying to resolve who’s responsible and how to deal with whatever the problem is. 

The following questions and answers help a client avoid these and other issues.

Who takes responsibility for leadership and project management of development?

Some client’s mistakenly believe that one of the major disciplines will automatically pick up project management (electronics/software/product design). Not so. In fact, most will shun it because it is difficult to lead other independent disciplines. This has insidious and regrettable consequences. No one leads the team and takes overall responsibility, and the first issue that doesn’t lie entirely with one or other of the disciplines is likely to falter. Being a bit cynical but not wholly unrealistic, the major disciplines will respond to issues that aren’t clear cut by pouring energy into showing that one of the other disciplines is responsible rather than striving to find solutions. That’s enough of the negative – what follows avoids these problems.

  • Projects must be managed and led.
  • Usually, it is best if the client does it – but that’s only if known how.
  • One of the disciplines can lead it – make sure professional project plan is compiled, monitored and managed through the entire project.
  • Aglie project planning and management is the best (Atlassian – Jira)
  • Make sure that project management is resourced – named project manager who chairs meetings.
 What needs setting up to make sure the development runs properly?

This question is going to be answered from the point of view of human resources only. The EM can give further guidance if required (CONTACT US).

After picking a project manager, pick a team and immediately set up a recurring progress meeting (once a week usually suits). A quorum is the technical disciplines, but it is often sensible to consider other stakeholders that may have a significant impact from early on:

  • Core technical functions: electronics, mechanics, product design, software.
  • Operations: design for manufacture is best considered very early on – even with early prototypes. If it isn’t, design choices that are manufacturable but sub-optimal tend to stick.
  • Quality: starting a quality plan and probing suppliers from the earliest stages always pays. 
  • Sales and marketing: it is all too easy for projects to lose sight of commercial goals.
Not all these resources need to be at every meeting, but making sure each is involved when relevant is beneficial.

How do I make sure the project development runs to schedule?

There are two things to confirm exist, are up to date, and are monitored constantly:

  • Specifications – see OPG.
  • Project Plan
The above is quite basic. Project management is not a light topic – make sure a competent PM is running your project. If further guidance is needed don’t hesitate to CONTACT US.