Industry X.0 is transforming product development to the benefit of all participants. From faster processes to the parallel development of hardware and software, Industry X.0 enables innovation along every step of the product development path. Lee Powers, Philip Leung and Cortney Rowan from Accenture’s product development studio Altitude explain the biggest product development rends in Industry X.0 today.

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Speeding up the process and cutting the costs are getting more important in the product development of the future. | Image: Thisisengineering / Unsplash

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Product development is the process through which new products are created and brought to market. It encompasses everything from the initial crafting of the product idea to the designing, engineering, making, marketing and launch of the product to the target audience. As noted by Philip Leung, Senior Product Design Manager at Accenture: “The process starts with a client need. From there a human-centered approach is used to empathize with the audience and uncover user and market needs.

Once this is done, it’s possible to innovative in the new to revitalize the brand and recapture market share.” Defining the product requires the input of a business and design strategy team, and a design and engineering team. Ideally, a holistic design team format will be used. “The goal is to create a fused team that covers desirability aspects such as industrial design, brand and UX/UI, feasibility elements like engineering, and includes viability experts, for example, design strategists and business analysts,” says Philip.

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Background

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Connected products with Industry X.0: Craig McNeil, Managing Director and North America Industry X.0 lead at Accenture guides through three connected product development showcases. 

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The three stages of product development

Altitude recommends approaching product development using a three-stage process. First is the customer needs and discovery stage. The design strategy team should conduct extensive research into the deep insights of consumers to distill the right opportunities. Second is the design and solution stage, which requires the design team and client team to collaborate to design and develop a meaningful solution.

Finally, the build, test and go-to-market stage. This is when the engineering team steps in to realize the solution into something manufacturable, reliable and of target cost. The team can then deliver the solution to contract manufacturers who will build the product themselves. Now let’s take a look at the biggest IX.0 product development trends of today.

 

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Get agile with hardware

Completing these three stages of product development enables the first trend, agile hardware development. This trend is really impacting businesses, and is very similar to agile software development. Agile hardware development refers to working in parallel streams to define all unknowns and ensure the client is confident about the solution. This new way of working in parallel streams requires all disciplines from strategy (business, consumer and go-to-market), design (industrial, experience architects, digital, brand experience, environment and service designer) and engineering (mechanical, electrical, firmware and software) to work hand in hand.

Collaboration is key

The second product development trend of today is client engagement. Specifically, engaging with clients at numerous stages during the product development cycle is essential to the overall process. At times, clients have a very firm idea of what they want from the product and will simply ask the product development team to build it. At other times they have a vague idea of what they want the product to be. Sometimes the client has just the technology they want their product to use, or the market they want to target. And there are times when the client has nothing more than a budget.

But when it comes to engaging clients, Lee Powers, Engineering Services Manager at Altitude, says, “The earlier, the better. The more chance we have to mold what the opportunity is, what exact problem we are trying to solve before we solve it, the more impactful and the more successful we can be.” And it’s also important to have a project owner from the client side on board at all times. This person should work as part of the project team to ensure alignment with the client organization in regard to the project goals.

 

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Shore up savings

Another product development trend that’s gaining prominence is offshoring. Product development firms once managed the entire process from ideation to manufacturing and mass production onshore. But supporting the entire process is becoming increasingly expensive. Clients want to know what they can offshore and when to ensure that costs are kept as low as possible. And offshoring will only become more popular due to more players entering the product development space.

 

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"Products are becoming more complex as they become smart and connected. Design and engineering teams must think about both the hardware development of the physical product and the software component it will run on."

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From hardware to software

The parallel development of hardware to software is on the rise because of increasingly complex products, according to Cortney Rowan, Managing Director at Altitude. “Products are becoming more complex as they become smart and connected. Design and engineering teams must think about both the hardware development of the physical product and the software component it will run on.” It’s also important to consider the ecosystem where the product will live to ensure it works correctly.

And it’s not just new market players bridging the divide between hardware and software. “Established companies like Amazon and Google are now entering the product hardware space. They’ve seen how this can add value to their current software offerings and legacy service offerings. Even in the financial world, more and more companies are understanding the power of product hardware development.” But to succeed, they must put fused teams in place to provide end-to-end solutions.

Team players

The fifth trend is the fused team. Currently, companies are doing everything they can do to speed up the processes of each phase. They’re trying to get manufacturing up and running faster, plus the design element. Lee knows that the key to achieving this is: “A fused team with all members working in parallel, running many sprints—very quick design cycles—to produce something tangible that can be tested. We learn what we can from each sprint before moving on to the next one.” The fused team can also quickly confirm if the product prototype satisfies in terms of desirability, feasibility and viability. This enables the team to determine which ideas to pursue, pivot or kill.

 

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A look with fresh eyes

So, why should companies consider working with consultancy firms when they have their own development team? Cortney says that while “companies often look internally for ideas, it can be hard to think outside the box if the team has been working on the same challenge for a while. Collaborating with an external consultancy firm can help with innovation and new ways of thinking. Customers are changing, and it takes time to understand the market and customer expectations. Consultancy firms help companies look at the market with fresh eyes, providing a more objective view of what their product needs to offer.”

And, as Phil reminds us, “most companies typically don’t externally test their products, which is another way consultancy firms can add value. And consultancy firms are often agnostic to many vertical industries and can leverage ideas and technology from other industries. This drives innovation that leads to new advances. Drawing skills from different industries is a key to making market gains.”

 

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The evolution of Altitude

Altitude, a product innovation group in Accenture’s Product X.0 practice, started out as a purely product development and engineering firm focused on hardware development approx. 26 years ago. As the company grew, it became more aware of the importance of the ecosystem around the product, and the difference a well-organized ecosystem can make when designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing a product. An internal design strategy group was set up to help clients who wish to innovate but are unsure of how, what or where they want to innovate. They may have an initial idea and the group can help determine whether there is a place in the market for their idea. The design group also builds brand capabilities to help clients understand what their product’s out-of-box experience will be like. Ultimately, Altitude helps clients move into new markets while defining their overall brand.

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Life in the fast lane

The biggest Industry X.0 product development trend today is the adoption of the agile process associated with software development. Agile hardware development processes offer a much better understanding of the problem and the solution. It requires teams to work in parallel streams but results in a far more unified approach to product development than traditional methods. Client engagement is becoming a bigger priority, and more companies are offshoring to cut costs. The parallel development of hardware and software is on the rise due to increasingly complex products. Finally, multidisciplinary teams are helping companies develop end-to-end solutions that drive new innovations.

Industry X.0 is transforming product development, enabling agile processes that speed up how long it takes to get a product from ideation to market. It has only just begun to understand how Industry X.0 benefits product development, and its likely to see great progress in this area over the coming years.

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About our experts 

Cortney Rowan, Philip Leung, and Lee Powers

 

Cortney Rowan is a Managing Director within Industry X.0. She leads the Boston innovation, design and engineering Forge.

Philip Leung is a Senior Manager within Industry X.0. He leads the experience design group in Boston and has over 25 years of product design and development experience in a variety of industries from consumer to industrial to life science. Get in touch with him via LinkedIn

Lee Powers is an Industry X.0 Engineering Services Manager also based in Boston. He has a strong appreciation for the importance of design.

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