A Vaccum Cleaner and an Aircraft

What is the similarity between an aircraft and a vaccum cleaner? Often product developing companies get stuck in old thinking. No surprise there, but what I mean this time is their thinking about what is their primary competence and as a consequence of this, how they need to think about their product development.

Apart from the pure software products there is a large number of products being developed out there, which, some decades ago where hardware only, but now also includes software, often increasingly so.

Since the company has successfully developed products according to rules and conditions which are valid for a hardware only product, it is often difficult to make managers on all levels to understand that once you introduce software in a product, you are in a completely different ballpark.

Software has completely different characteristics, different minimal lead times, different complexity properties which must be taken into account when organising product development. This is is not only a difference, it is also a set of opportunities to exploit. One of the more obvious opportunities is the the short lead times possible, which, if done correctly, could mean shorter time to delivery, shipment and return on investment. This means, of course, becoming more agile, but it doesn’t stop with the development - project, product and company management must embrace the agile principles and change their thinking.

If you cross a vaccum cleaner with a computer you get a computer, and if you cross an aircraft with a computer you also get a computer!

One you introduce software in your product you are stuck with new values, characteristics and opportunities. Too many developing companies fail to exploit these opportunities for rapid return on investment and improved quality.

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