Project Management Helps Innovative Companies Reach Their Highest Product Design Goals

Posted on December 3, 2019 by Matthew Russell

Whether you’re designing the world’s next stand out IoT product, or building a secure and efficient new operating system, you need to make sure you’ve got the tools and the talent to launch it.

Technology innovations depend on the highly technical work of engineers, of course, but we’ve found that strong project management is just as crucial in pushing those innovations to success.

Your project may involve FPGA acceleration, hardware development, a secure software solution, or even connecting the next fleet of miniaturized devices to the Internet of Things.

No matter the application, a number of talents need to be pulled together to meet your design goals. Understanding how those talents can best fit together, and enhance each other, is the role of project management, and one that can move a project forward swiftly. Every project is different, but the goals are ultimately the same: get the best work done in the fewest number of steps, using the least amount of resources.

We consider it a success when that goal is met, and we have helped a number of clients reach that success through collaborative and proactive project management, from timeline and budget planning to development work, allocating the right resources where they need to be, when they need to be.

As we’ve seen while guiding clients toward their development goals, the importance of project management cannot be overstated, and here are a few scenarios where it really makes a difference.

Working with a client who is unfamiliar with the technology.

collaboration workers office development technology program project managementA popular manufacturer of consumer grills was looking for validation for their IoT goals after previous attempts had led to wasted time and resources. They wanted to update the control system in their grills, and operate and monitor those grills via a cloud-based app.

Coming to DornerWorks after being let down by a previous IoT provider, the client understood the need to connect its products to the Internet of Things, and in a rapidly moving market, was interested in launching those updates as quickly as possible.

Finding a design partner that could handle various technical requirements as well as the means to build a testable prototype was crucial to the project’s success.

DornerWorks helped the client determine feasibility and requirements within their own constraints. BOM cost, NRE effort, schedule, and risk were mapped out through project management, as engineers experimented with a number of grill models to ensure hardware and software solutions worked reliably and efficiently.

A project manager helped arrange technical resources and facilitate a PCB revision and prototype in three weeks for the client. They were prepared with a functional model of the product they wanted when they visited suppliers overseas, and communicated their vision with clarity.

The connected product DornerWorks helped this client develop continues to stand out as a true innovation in a crowded market of consumer grills, and they’ve since used us as its sole electronics design house for all model updates moving forward for hardware, firmware, and app development.

Guided by project management from DornerWorks, this client built and delivered a product that truly delighted their customers, developed in a way that incorporated their own design goals, and set them apart from the rest.

Working with a client who is very familiar with the technology.

When an industrial client needed help miniaturizing and improving the technology they used to perform data analysis, they already understood much more than we did about the nature of their own work.

They’re the experts, after all.

code, coder, coding, coffee, computer, copy, hands, js, keyboardBut where a solid grasp of the processing features helped lend some direction to the project, fitting that very complex, extremely sensitive electronic system into a box with battery power while still allowing it to make noise measurements was out of their reach.

For this custom-built solution, it would take a custom-built team.

Working with dozens of projects a year, DornerWorks project managers are skilled at matching the talents of various technical teams to the needs of customers. From the Boeing Dreamliner project that required the expertise of our hardware, software, FPGA, and requirements testing engineers; to the Crash Test Data Recorder, which draws on the work of a more specific talent set.

There’s no shotgun approach to good technology development. It takes attention to details like scope and budget, which a project manager can incorporate into an efficient plan of action.

A project manager from DornerWorks brought together hardware, software, and FPGA teams to design an electronic solution for this industrial client that provided the capabilities that they needed in a pretty confined space.

The client got a design that met their goals, without spending money on wasted resources, after collaborating with DornerWorks, measuring the work needed reach them, and building a team of experts.

Helping a client focus their goals.

A commercial washer and dryer manufacturer came to DornerWorks for help on connecting their products to the Internet of Things (IoT). They wanted wireless access to their machines, with the benefit of data monitoring and remote control.

technology, confusion, IoT, product, wirelessThe client knew what they wanted, but they were not sure how to get there.

Developing unfamiliar technology from scratch can be a costly pursuit, which is where DornerWorks came in, providing a partnership to pursue those development goals together. Moreover, the development process was transparent, so the client could understand what work was being done, and why, as the budget was used up.

This helped restore the client’s confidence in their strategy, and vindicated the design goals they had set out to reach, without being led blindly down an expensive path.

IoT engineering services were provided along with project management to make sure the work met price point specifications. A number of different paths were followed and the development went through several rounds of requirements updates as the client determined their needs along the way.

DornerWorks engineers developed PCB solutions for the display, graphics processing, communications, cloud connectivity, machine control, and sensors in the system, which provided a new standard of controls methodology the client could expand across its product line, and market at trade shows. Thorough and honest project management services meanwhile helped save time and money at each decision point, with regular client reports throughout the process detailing the work, and ensuring was being done efficiently and with consistency.

In the end, we helped the client develop a platform that sets them apart from other commercial laundry vendors.

The wireless laundry control solution allowed this client to leapfrog its competition in terms of user interface, electronic control platform, and web integration. The upgraded functionality also allows for expandability in a rapidly growing market.

Helping clients set a benchmark for consistency.

Not every code base is pretty. Some rely on a “duct taped” system of legacy technology and workarounds that few outside the organization may understand.

stopwatch, measure, time, timer, analytic, benchmark, test“I see this maybe once a year, says DornerWorks Engineering Manager Shawn Isenhoff, “The customer that didn’t know just how bad their contractor was. They have a code base for a product already out in the field that is so bad they don’t even want you to see the code, they just want to start over.”

And thorough project management can handle the tangle, of course, it just takes a little extra handling to straighten those wires out.

“For those companies that have no design team to check their contractors work, we have them covered,” Isenhoff says. “When we manage the projects we ensure there are design reviews by independent engineers and that there are QA checks, all ensuring best practices for code that can be tested, deployed and maintained as their product changes and improves.”

Responsible collaboration makes data like progress, timelines, risks and budget transparent to key members of the project partnership, helping the executive team develop a stronger strategic plan.

It’s through a fluency with both project metrics and strategy that managers at DornerWorks have been able to guide clients through all aspects of product design, starting with ideation through production and revenue creation, keeping a close eye on their timelines.

Working with yourself as the client.

Project management has provided value to our customers through goals met and products delivered, but its value is just as recognizable in our own developments. It shows up in product development, process design, and any other challenge that requires corralling the right talents for a particular task.

The benefits of project management are more clearly understood in retrospect; they typically do not fall into place in a day. It takes the combined efforts of the entire project team, as well as the rest of the organization, to offer effective and responsible project management.

Working with others on collaborative, transformational relationships will uncover even more opportunity to uncover valuable resources. It’s through making these discoveries, and putting that insight to work, that project management push organizations toward sustainable success.

Matthew Russell
by Matthew Russell