A product is the sum of a stream of decisions. The product’s function, its form and how long it takes to develop and manufacture all evolve from the quality of these decisions. Controlling this stream is the role of the Product Lifecycle Process.  Where tools like CAD capture drawings and models, and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) captures data and progress, it is the Product Lifecycle Process that drives the best use of these tools.

If the Product Lifecycle Process is nothing more than the control of the decisions made, then cost and time overruns are also a factor of the quality of process. In one government agency that develops bleeding edge technologies, cost overruns ranged from 31% (small projects) to 315% (very large projects). Or, in the Chaos Report, an annual analysis of information technology (IT) projects; 44% of all 2008 IT projects were delivered late or over budget and an additional 24% were cancelled. Only 32% of projects completed were on time and on budget with full functionality. It should be noted that the Chaos Report data may actually be understated, as they are self-reported.

Generally, product failures are thought of as management problems. But often they are problems of a poor Product Lifecycle Process. Specifically, for the government agency, there were clear points in the process used in budgeting that lead to the poor results and a change in this process has reduced the overruns significantly.

To read more on the Product Lifecycle Process, see David Ullman’s paper Decision-Thinking in PLM, sponsored by Siemens PLM Software, or his text The Mechanical Design Process, 5th edition, published by McGraw Hill.

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