Preston Smith's Corner

What is the connection between flexible product development and time to market?

June 2007 Quick Tip

I regard flexible product development simply as an extension of time to market into the twenty-first century. We have learned since Developing Products in Half the Time was published that there are many ways to view development cycle time.

One view is to recognize that the product development environment has become more chaotic recently as customers change their minds more frequently, disruptive competitors appear more often, and technologies evolve faster. In other words, change is increasingly likely happen during the project. Thus, time to market doesn’t really run from the time that you start a development project but instead from the moment that you can last make changes easily. Flexible development is simply a matter of pushing the “design freeze” point later in the project without costly consequences.

One way of portraying this is to consider development as comprising two phases: a conceptual phase during which you can make changes easily and an implementation phase where you realize the concept. Design freeze occurs at the end of the conceptual phase.

If these phases are not overlapped, there is no flexibility, that is, you do not start implementing until you freeze the design. To the extent that your process is flexible, you can start implementing before you freeze the design, that is, you can overlap these phases. In this case, time to market can be considered to run from the end of the first phase to the end of the second one. The more overlap you can tolerate without undue consequences the shorter is your time to market— and the greater is your flexibility.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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