Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wonders of Mind Mapping in New Product Development

Ever heard of a Mind Map? Most people either already routinely use them or are completely in the dark about them, as I was a year ago. Since I reluctantly made the Mind Map plunge I have found them to be of great value early on in any project, helping greatly to clarify mission, objectives and strategies. Now I don't do anything without first starting with a Mind Map. This month's newsletter will be a journey to the wonders of mind mapping in the semi business. And yes, this blog topic originated as a mind map before I typed the first word.

I got hooked on Mind Mapping a little over a year ago and now find that it is the beginning of anything I do, from writing blogs and newsletters to strategizing detailed proposals for my clients through planning out full projects. I now view the mapping process as essential for helping me think things through and presenting ideas, concepts and proposals. In fact the entire Mind Map for this newsletter is included at the end; you decide if it was quicker to read the words or look at the map for information of interest to you.

What is a Mind Map?
A completed mind map is simply a pictorial view of concept expansions, much like an outline on steroids. One difference being an outline is linear, whereas a Mind Map is not. The beauty of the map is not so much the finished product, but the process in getting there; the thought processes, discussions, brainstorming and non-linear thinking utilized in developing a map.

The key features of a mind map tool typically include graphics, links, text expansion as well as connectors to indicate relationships between concepts. They are graphical tools that allow simple and quick manipulation of concepts, making them ideal for group brainstorming. An added advantage of a hosted web based mind map solution is that it allows for multiple locations to join in for real time collaboration on a single map, great for multi-site brainstorming.

What Mind Map Tools are Available?
There are a variety of client based as well as hosted (web SaaS) Mind Map solutions available. I prefer the hosted solutions because they are platform independent and I can get to my maps from anywhere. Some hosted solutions even provide for offline work, making them the best alternative, in my opinion. If you would like to review my links to specific tools download my blog map (It will be a pdf) at the end and click on the various links associated with the "Mind map tool links" concept.

Where can Mind Maps be used in the Semiconductor Biz?
If there is an idea that needs a path to closure, consider the Mind Map process as the guide. There are multiple areas where I believe Mind Maps will provide value in new product development.

Requirements Gathering
Pulling together features is a great way to leverage a mind map to easily capture, drill down, prioritize, brainstorm and decide upon new product requirements. Use a mind map in a requirements workshop session or a team meeting and see the magic of high-octane collaboration. All levels of requirements such as IP, Chip, module, product and system would realize benefit from the Mind Map process to generate and sort through possibilities.

The Product Development Process
If you need to brainstorm reasons why the development process is done a certain way, conceptualize process alternatives, identify barriers or hash out the design flow consider a mind map as a guide to capturing ideas and guiding the discussion. Large groups, small groups or individuals will appreciate the non-linear thinking, quick capturing and idea drill down of the mind map process.

Product Portfolio
Hash out the product roadmap, build decision trees or construct a new product decision process with the use of a mind map. Once completed the information can be captured in the standardized forms for your organization. Remember, the mind map is guiding the thought process, not necessarily producing the final documentation.

Project Definition
This is my favorite use of a mind map; in the early stages of planning where the projects are just beginning to form. Brainstorm to identify, dismiss and accept project alternatives. Do the same for risk and mitigation strategies. Specific task identification, drill down and development are a natural for the Mind Map brainstorming process.

Are you a Mind Map Type?
Now the test - review the Mind Map for this article (click diagram for pdf download) and decide if it is more efficient for you to scan the text or utilize the mind map to retrieve information of interest to you? If the text wins you are predominately a linear thinking type. If the mind map was more advantageous for you, then welcome to the world of non-linear thinking. Go forth and map your way to better ideas, concepts, decisions and collaboration!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Survey – How is Internal EDA Support Utilized

The link below is a survey to identify how your organization is utilizing internal EDA resources, what your expectations are of internal support along with your level of satisfaction. Once you complete the 5-10 minute survey you will be presented with a link to monitor results. Final results will be published here on this blog. Many thanks to those who choose to participate.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is New Product Development Dysfunctional?

So how should the question “Is the New Product Development (NPD) effort dysfunctional” be answered? It’s a simple question with a yes or no answer; there is no middle of the road response allowed here. Hanging out in the intermediate zone permits the warm fuzziness of maybe or sort of to cloud the issue. Simply asked - Is the NPD development process broken or not?

If any of the answers to questions the below are yes, then the NPD process is not working. These three simple assessments should be considered key indicators of a dysfunctional development process.And the answer is a big yes; the NPD process is dysfunctional, right? Any one of the three indicators posed above involves a great deal of lost revenue and should command real attention. There is typically a firm management directive that states these items are unacceptable and must be resolved. It gets brief attention, limited direct action and then the lost potential revenue is swept under the rug.

Here’s the deal – the NPD process is broken. Admit this and do something about it or deny it and do nothing. Stop hanging out in the middle, burning precious resources on misdirected activities that are really lacking the buy-in, resources or broad impact that will guarantee success. The middle ground incremental improvement efforts lack the proper focus on fixing the development process. Additionally, these solutions are falsely deemed a success by an achievement measurement that means little or nothing to a big picture victory.

For success on a scale large enough to repair dysfunctional product development efforts, there must be a direct assault on the key indicators, the bulls-eye of true improvement! Whoa, how can we possibly take those on? It’s long past the time of small thinking, a belief system that wastes money and does not address the core problems. Remember, solutions must address the fact that the overall NPD process is dysfunctional on multiple fronts!

It’s time to get real about assessing the process of bringing new products to market. Honestly answer the question “Is the new product development effort dysfunctional?” Fully understand the “why” of each key indicator of a busted development process by drilling down and uncovering all the reasons that they are occurring. Engage in a grass roots effort to fix what is found. Stop the “We are getting better” dance, unless there is quantifiable impact on the key indicators.