Increasing complexity of socio-technical systems complicates cross-system product development in companies. In order to manage this complexity, company-related points of focus are becoming increasingly important. The aim of the joint project AMeLie is to efficiently design the product development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is done by a structured approach, which increases efficiency and thus competitiveness. For this purpose, conventional Systems Engineering (SE) approaches are transferred from theory into manageable methods. These methods can be individually combined to solve problems. In this way, development processes are to be shortened in the long term and SE is to become applicable for SMEs. Incurring costs should be reduced and the recertification process in the medical industry should also be manageable for SMEs.

Four pillars of advanced systems engineering illuminate the points of focus for increasing efficiency and effectiveness

As already described in the blog post “What meanings are concealed behind the terms AMeLie, AdWiSE and ASE?”, four ASE pillars contribute significantly to mastering complexity in product development:

  • “Skill Management”
  • “Context & Customer Understanding”
  • “System Mastery”
  • “Process Efficiency”

Under the four pillars, 16 systems engineering skills, also called capabilities, extend to the product development of SMEs. Depending on individual goals, business challenges can be addressed in a targeted manner. Specific focus areas allow improvement measures to be implemented in concrete terms. Fig.1 shows the subdivision of the pillars and Systems Engineering capabilities in detail.

Fig.1: Systems Engineering capabilities to promote SME product development.

“Context & Customer Understanding” as the foundation for user-centered product development

User-centric product development is enabled by capabilities in the capability pillar “Context & Customer Understanding”. A focus on the user avoids developing without taking the market and the customer into account. Analysis methods from SE, as well as from Design Thinking, create a clear picture of the potential customers. The fields include “Know your Context”, “Put the Customer in the Center”, “Innovate to evolve or disrupt” & “Communicate the Product Value”. These will be examined in more detail below.

Know your Context

To apply SE as an SME, the company must know the context of the systems to be developed. A system describes the interaction of components that together form a product. The product fulfills one or more functions.
A complex product should, in the sense of complexity reduction, be logically broken down into its individual parts. To ensure this, the environment in which the system is to exist must be considered. Different levels and dimensions must be considered, including the relevant regulations.
The system is viewed from different perspectives to complete the system description and find an optimal solution. Interfaces and spheres of influence are important, as is a deep understanding of the addressed market and the competitors within it. Risks and opportunities must be weighed. In addition, by agreeing on the perspectives to be used, a common practice is established for the creation, interpretation and use of the system description.

Put the Customer in the Center

How well do you know your customer and his needs? Does your product solve a problem for the customer?
Of crucial importance when developing a product is to have the customer in mind. The customer decides whether the product will be successful or not. This is true even if the consumer doesn’t even know he wants or needs the product.
This means that the selected customers must be identified, and their needs must be researched in order to create sustainable added value.
To ensure that a product meets customer needs, it is advisable to integrate the customer into development loops. This ensures that appropriate measures can be derived if necessary.

Innovate to evolve or disrupt

Innovative solutions keep companies relevant in the marketplace relative to the competition. With the help of innovation management, products, processes or services can be improved incrementally or radically. Through evolutionary or disruptive innovations, a company can either establish itself in a target market or open up new markets.
Ideas are not the same as innovations. Innovations only arise from ideas if they are translated into new products, services or processes that are successfully applied and become established on the market.

Communicate the Product Value

Do you effectively reach your customers with your product appearance? What differentiates your product from the competition?
The special features of a product determine its differentiation on the market. Only if the customer sees an added value for himself, he will buy the product. It is necessary to know the benefits for potential customers. This applies to customers in both expected and unforeseen areas.
A deep understanding of customer needs is of enormous benefit to SMEs. Through this, customers can be addressed through targeted marketing and storytelling, and buying desires are aroused. Even new product use cases can be derived to discover possible new markets or develop product variants.

“C&C Understanding” creates understanding for market, customer and product

C&C Understanding sets out the framework within which a product should function. A comprehensive understanding of the market, the customers and the product creates a solid foundation on which product development can build.