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Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration = Faster to Market

By: Chris Gregory - HLB Director Marketing and Business Development

The efficiency and effectiveness of the product development process and the ability of a product to meet its objectives is dependent upon the composition of technical skill-sets plus collaborative abilities of core team members.  A plan developed by an experienced team will be thorough and logically organized via sequential phases comprised of comprehensive task lists and deliverables targeting desired outcomes.  Individual phases are typically based upon specific disciplines (research, design, engineering, etc.) and driven by representative professionals focused on each discipline.  This basically means research tasks are carried out by research analysts, design is carried out by industrial designers, engineering is carried out by mechanical or electrical engineers, and so on and so forth.

On the surface this process is very orderly representing an A leads to B, B leads to C, and C leads to D approach.  However, seasoned product managers from any industry understand the product development process rarely progresses in such an orderly fashion.  Reality often presents A leads to B, B leads to C, and C leads back to B scenario.  While “circling back” or additional refinement is often part of the process, reducing this scenario as much as possible is obviously desired for keeping a manageable timeline conducive to efficient launch planning.  The best method to alleviating multiple refinement situations is to have each phase addressed by multi-disciplinary team members.  

For example, we here at HLB have found it extremely beneficial to have mechanical engineers highly experienced in manufacturing processes and materials to take on an advisory role within phases driven by industrial design.  Similarly, it advantageous to have both engineering and design personnel sit alongside researchers while conducting usability or human factors studies.  This multi-disciplinary approach leads to a cross-pollination of ideas while addressing potential pitfalls to the process prior to their having an adverse effect on release and launch cycles.

The application of individual, disciplined expertise and knowledge via a collaborative multi-disciplinary team results in an effective augmentation of ideas and concepts leading to a solution more directly addressing user needs.  It has been our experience that multi-disciplined teams excel at meeting deadlines and releasing product to market more quickly than the alternative.  A diverse experience base makes a team much more adept at seeing and solving problems when they first come to view.  In the absence of early identification and resolution, problems are carried farther into the development process and become more time consuming and as a result more expensive to resolve.  

This is especially true as a product transitions to manufacturing.  Unfortunately, all too often critical manufacturing phases are exactly where issues are discovered by less multi-disciplined teams.  In the most extreme cases, this can result in the necessity to circle back from Z to A.  This scenario can be quite expensive and quite possibly completely devastating.  The collaboration of designers and engineers well versed in manufacturing requirements and techniques throughout the development process reduces these risks exponentially.  Bottom-line, multi-disciplined collaborative teams deliver more robust solutions to market faster.