Justifying Technology Investment a Top Challenge for Engineering

References Cited

3D Visualization, Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD), Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Product Data Management (PDM), Model Based Definition (MBD)

Studies Cited

The Model Based Enterprise (MBE) Study, The Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Study, The Simulation Driven Design Study

Been keeping track of us on social media over the past few days? If you have, I wonder if you’ve noticed the trend. You see, we’ve been posting a few new findings on the top challenges for different technologies from past research studies, including The Simulation Driven Design StudyThe Model-Based Enterprise Study and The PLM Study. For those of you that didn’t catch them, here they are again.

When mixed into an ongoing stream of twitter updates, its fairly easy to miss the connection between these findings. But here, side by side, its impossible to ignore. Costs and convincing executive management to invest in these kinds of initiatives are consistently top challenges across these technologies that are applicable to engineering. The quick takeaway? These issues are not confined to any one technology, but are applicable to all of them. But what exactly is the issue?

A Pricing Issue? Poor Justification?

For many, that’s the root cause. The price for these solutions is too high. The technology provider are charging too much. Their prices should be lower.  However, I have a tough time buying this answer. If you look at solutions in use by other functional organizations like sales, marketing, procurement, manufacturing or quality, the pricing is similar. Sure, cloud-based service subscriptions is changing things. But that is happening across the board.

Instead, I think Jos in the following tweet is pointed in the right direction.

Although, I’m not thinking politics is to blame. What’s the real issue? Well, in my mind, the answer is fairly clear.

Engineers aren’t good at justifying technology investments.

I wish it wasn’t true. But in my mind, the findings prove it. The technologies aren’t lacking. Otherwise, technology capabilities would rise to the top of these lists. They don’t. If there was a problem with the underlying value proposition of these technologies, then that would bear out. However, as seen in a post I published last week, the value of some of these technologies is high. To me, the failing lies in the inability to justify these tools.

Engineers Are in an Unrecognized Position of Power

Therein lies my angst. Fundamentally, I believe that engineers do sit in a position of strength. The decisions they make, every single day, directly affect the financial viability of the company. Select one material instead of another? You lower the recurring cost of a new product and save the company millions of dollars. Get performance right the first time? The initial system level prototype passes testing, saving the company tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Pick the right component and supplier? The product launches on time, capturing significant market share instead of being relegated to a fast-follower status. The decisions of engineers affect company success every day.

The issue, however, is that engineering is often seen as a cost center. Their activities are disassociated with top line growth and bottom line cost control. It is hard for engineers to understand just how much of a financial impact they have on profitability. Who is to blame for all of this? Well… I hate to say this… but look in the mirror.

All this might sound grim. But engineers can easily take their seat at the table. There are four sound areas of justification for technologies that enable engineering. Befriending the beancounter is another approach that has successfully supported the justification of engineering technologies as well. They approaches exist. They just must be applied.

Recap and Conclusion

  • Technology time and costs as well as convincing executives to invest in such technologies consistently rise to the top of a list of technology challenges.
  • Pricing, in my opinion, is not the culprit for these issues. It lies in the difficulty that engineering has in justifying the technologies they need.
  • Engineer’s decisions directly affect company profitability ever single day. Understand that connection and engineers should be able to easily justify their technology needs.

Alright folks. That’s my take. I’m open to any and all feedback, so let it rip in the comments.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.