Last week, I published some scary statistics for product development in a post titled Product Development’s Grade? An Epic Fail. In the findings of that post, we found that only 13% of all product development projects are launched on time without a major shift in resources. The other 87%? Those projects were either cancelled, missed their launch date or required a 10%+ shift in resources to get it out on time. While these findings make for startling moment, the first question is an obvious one.


Why do so many product development projects fail?

Early Hints

In the Simulation Driven Design Study, the results of which were published in The State of Simulation Driven Design Report, I asked survey respondents about the implications of failed prototypes. It was a multiple choice question with various performance implications. Answers to that question showed us that:

  • 60% have missed project deadlines due to failed prototypes
  • 56% work late or on the weekend due to failed prototypes
  • 21% have ordered incorrect parts due to failed prototypes
  • 15% have lost contracts due to failed prototypes

Obviously, failed prototypes do have a direct impact on the performance of the engineering organization. But just how much? That wasn’t a question I was able to answer until very recently.

Recent Validation

In January of these year, I had another chance to measure numerous metrics of product development performance. Well, The State of PLM Study delivered. Consider this tweet that includes a heat map correlation between two performance measures.

Now, before we dive in too deeply, here are a few things you should know about this finding.

  • Percentages were calculated in rows. So, if you add percentages in a row, they come out to 100%. I did this because I wanted to see where the the majority of respondents within one group with a certain level of failed prototypes fell. This approach lets us do that.
  • Respondents were grouped together (in rows) to create similarly sized cohorts.

So, how do you read this thing?

  • The majority of organizations (61%, 19%+42%) with few system level prototype failures (1 or less out of 10) frequently launch their products on time (6 or more out of 10).
  • The majority of organizations (53%, 26%+27%) with frequent system level prototype failures (4 or more out of 10) often miss their product launch dates (3 or less out of 10).
  • In general, you can see a dark band from the top right going to the bottom left. The heat map trend tells us that as the frequency of system level prototype failures increase, the likelihood of launching products on time goes down.

Ultimately, this is what we expected anecdotally, but now we have statistical evidence. The more prototypes fail, the less likely you’ll launch on time.

Potential Solutions

OK. So now we know more prototypes = missed launch dates. Now what?

Well, there are a host of solutions, old and new, that are directly aimed at enabling organizations to pass testing and prototyping the first time. Let’s review.

  • If we’re talking about failures within disciplines, there are many simulation solutions available. Mechanical failures can be addressed by MCAD and MCAE. PCB ones can be addressed by ECAD and associated simulation applications. Software issues can be addressed by ALM and similar solutions.
  • Systems level failures, however, have their own host of solutions. You have Model-Based System Engineering solutions that are available, which can plug into discipline specific simulations and connect them together. You also have Requirements Management capabilities in PLM solutions that support the flow down from requirement to functions to allocations.
  • Of course, disciplined configuration management and system engineering practices play a big part in this as well.

Recap and Conclusion

  • A majority, 60%, of the respondents to the Simulation Driven Design Study stated they had missed project deadlines due to prototype failures.
  • Findings from The State of PLM Study show a clear correlation between prototype failures and missed product launches. In general, the more system level prototype failures you have, the less likely you will hit your product launch date.
  • Numerous solutions and practices exist to help avoid system level prototype failures. Investigate them to bolster what you are already doing.

That’s my take folks. Share what you’ve seen in terms of correlating prototype failures to missed product launches. Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.