Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Six Obstacles to Design Team Victory

Here's my list of items that are sure to ruin a victory for a design teams project, even with a harrowing effort by the team. These are the biggies and if you conquer them, your team is sure to enjoy repeat project victories.

  1. Lack of Best (Same) Practices - Enough said on this subject from the previous posting on practices dated Jan 31, 2008.
  2. Lack of Scope Control - Things change and they always will. The big question is "are you in control of when something is changing or even if something might be changing?" Keep a watchful eye on your internal team also. Things come up on a project and are declared a no-brainer thus grandfathered in with minimal fanfare, if any at all. I have yet to see a no-brainer change that does not end up causing some problem downstream due to lack of proper assessment and communication. On a project, a change is never free!
  3. Lack of Requirements Closure Management - Requirements closure can take longer than the design project itself and I have seen this happen more than once! Project execution may get kicked off early due to a sense of urgency, allowing the team to go down a dead end, return and then go down another path or two wasting precious time. If you want that project in the shortest amount of time you need an early focus on the requirements, not on getting your designers busy. Capturing schematics, doing layout and running simulations feels like progress but it's only real progress if it is not redone later.
  4. Lack of Design Breakdown Requirements - The chip level requirements must be broken down into engineering requirements at the sub-block level. The design is a system that must formally spawn the lower level block requirements. Lower level engineering requirements include electricals, functional, verification and test plans/modes. Design Guides work well as the engineering information containers for the lower level requirements breakdown.
  5. Lack of a Plan - Statements such as "it will take us about 6 months", or "we need it in 6 months" do not constitute a plan and it will never work for you. Plan out how you will get there, what are the risks and their mitigation strategies, what each of the tasks are and who is going to do what. Follow this by identifying the task lengths and build up the plan in a project plan tool (see our Plan template). Once you have it in the planning tool you can then do what-if tradeoffs to see how resources or de-featuring can improve things. Do your homework and then commit to the plan only when there is a means to get there. This becomes the Plan of Record for the project. Change anything about requirements or resources and the plan must be updated. Remember, nothing is ever free.
  6. Lack of Full NPD Team Participation - CAD, TE, PE, packaging, customer, PM, Biz Ops, Marketing are all part of the New Product Development team and must be assigned at project kickoff. Don't pull in your product and test people a month before tapeout; engage them at the project start for their input on design requirements for test and production worthiness. Leave them out and you are likely to have a silicon spin purely to support production issues; again several months delay and lost revenue that did not need to happen! Include a program manager that knows design and can manage the design related details and ask the tough questions; the ones that pull the design team into the planning process. Include CAD resources as part of the project. If you have holes in your tool flow you must plan the fixes as part of the project and track them just like any other project task.