The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world
TOPICS:

Twins – Double Your Efficiency, Double Your Fun

If I ever hear “Well – could you make a baby in one month with nine mothers?” again – I will scream.  Personally, I average four months per baby with my preemie twins.  Because designing is so costly, looking for twin opportunities – more often called “design re-use” – is a very sensible plan. In partnership with product planning, program management can greatly help a company effectively use resources to make more products faster and to reach a wider market.

The super annoying question about nine mothers usually is used to answer – Why are you planning so long for one or two people to do the task; could you get it done faster with  more? The frustrated designer or design manager is tired of explaining that the assigned staff are the only ones with the expertise, and they are already divided among a few projects, and yes, they are already training others and documenting so there is less dependency on them, but even that effort is slowing things down, and no matter what, bringing in someone extra right now, or worse yet three extra people, or a whole new contractor is only going to slow things down further.  I prefer to look at the question differently: How can we plan to do more with the same resources?

If we are investing in key new developments with expensive talent and materials, how can we get more out of them?  Can we make products that use the key new deliverable in multiple ways? This is sometimes called design re-use, but I am focusing on the intentional plan to design with multiple uses originally planned.  A non-high tech example is designing a hotel ballroom with movable walls so that it can be rented in pieces or whole depending on demand. A common computer chip marketing plan is to design one comprehensive design, but allow access to limited parts for a lower price.  For software, a more expensive license will allow access to more features.  It not only saves development time, but also support time, and provides consistency to re-use algorithms where possible.   New product planning should include program management as soon as possible to see where a company’s efforts can be used and re-used multiple times.  If the product requires ten deliverables to incorporate, but eight can be finished quickly, perhaps those eight can be used for a lower tier market and a test vehicle at the same time.

Sensible product definition studies include feasibility analysis and estimates of return on investment (ROI) – By including program managers early, and IT, and vendor liaisons, opportunities for shared resourcing can help a proposal pass an ROI test.  In addition to internal brain power, shared planning can better use equipment and purchased design kits or IP, and other items purchased from external vendors.

Yes, of course, there are times when you can crash (PMI speak for shorten schedule by increasing resources) the schedule, but usually those situations don’t result in the parallel pregnancy question. When it doesn’t help to put more people on a key deliverable, it can certainly help to put a great idea into more products.

Now, please don’t start asking about one really good mom making nine babies.

Share

About the Author

Erica Brand has over 15 years of experience as a project manager for innovative hardware, software, and combined systems in high tech environments. At Telegent Systems she manages complex, high-budget ($2M-$10M) chip design through the product lifecycle. Her broad experience includes working as a Program Management Director at EDA supplier Cadence Design Systems supporting semiconductor companies designing with aggressive techniques, process nodes, and development cycles. Her work at Cadence also included managing consolidation customer partnership across the company’s entire portfolio. She started in Cadence’s DFM organization back in 2005, where she published article and white papers on DFM and chip design at 45nm. Prior to joining Cadence, Erica worked at PMC-Sierra and start-up Quantum Effect Design where she managed custom layout, process migration and tapeout (release to manufacturing) efforts for microprocessors. Erica worked as a liaison for QED and multiple foundry and EDA vendors. She also worked on internal tool development and deployment. Erica is a PMP certified Sr. Program Manager and holds a B.S. from MIT and an M.S. from Stanford University.
Creative Commons License
Note: This work and all associated comments are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Leave a Reply

*