Product management: our top five challenges

May 14, 2018

Since my last blog post, I’ve moved from Business Development into Product Management. It’s a big change and I’m excited to get going, working with our world-class product managers to shape the future of our product roadmaps.

With change comes challenge, which set me to thinking about what my top five challenges today are.

Challenge 1: setting priorities

Of course, we would like to do every product that we can conceive - but back in the real world of a commercial organization, we have limits and we have goals. Few organizations have the luxury of all the resources they would like – and we’re no different. We have to ensure that we deploy the resources we have in the right places to deliver the maximum impact on our business – and, of course, on our customers’ businesses.

While we do many custom designs for a specific purpose and customer, the COTS model works best when we can produce one product that satisfies a number of needs. That’s the essence of a commercially available product – its wide applicability to a range of customer needs. That way, we sell more – and no less important, our customers benefit from lower pricing due to spreading the cost of non-recurring engineering and economies of scale.

A big piece of our planning process is to gather and analyze the data that leads us to a prioritized list. We have been working hard to refine the process, and I'm already seeing the fruits of that labor.

Challenge 2:  looking forward

When addressing challenge 1, it’s all too easy to only take the short to medium term view. That’s important of course, but it needs to be balanced with a longer term strategic picture in order to keep the product line vibrant and relevant to our customers and to keep us on a growth path.

We all know how long military procurement cycles and the uptake of new technologies can take, but the world keeps turning - and new tech that can be of material benefit to our war fighters is constantly being invented. It’s imperative that we do everything we can to get it to the folks who protect us as soon as we can and with the best pedigree that we can provide. We take pride in our tools, design methodologies, component selection, and testing so we can bring the latest devices to the field with the best reliability.

Challenge 3: taking the heat

It’s well documented how difficult it is to get heat out of rugged, compact systems. Shrinking die geometries, more integrated systems-on-chip, stacked devices - they all make it hard, and it gets harder over time.

Unless we can alleviate this issue, something has to give - and that usually winds up being either a reduction in reliability due to sustained operation at elevated temperatures, or a reduction in performance due to controlled or automatic throttling of clock speeds in order to reduce heat output. Neither is desirable or, in many cases, tolerable.

Abaco puts a lot of resources into researching new cooling technologies and materials that can significantly improve the situation. We have established a cross-functional technology consortium that looks at many issues - including the thermal challenge. Expect to see the benefits soon - in fact our techniques are already benefiting our customers on our SBC347D.

Challenge 4: getting better

No matter how good we are, we can always do better.

We can embrace new processors, new interconnects, new form factors. We can bring the thermal techniques referred to above to bear on products sooner to increase reliability and determinism. We can cut design cycles by adopting new methodologies and manufacturing techniques. We can make our boards and systems more secure by incorporating modules that enable secure booting of validated images and that can detect and respond to malicious attacks. We can innovate ways to protect subsystems on platforms that are currently exposed, like CANbus, MIL-STD-1553, and others. We can help our customer bring the technologies that are the brains behind self-driving cars to autonomous military vehicles. We can drive and adopt open architecture standards that make our taxpayer funds go further.

Challenge 5: bringing benefits to our customers

As you’ve hopefully seen, we have some exciting things going on -  but for it to be worthwhile, we know that our customers have to see real benefits and advantages for their business.  We have to help our customers to innovate, to save money, to get to market faster. In other words: we have to help our customers be more competitive. Our focus has to be on our customers’ success – because without customer success, we know we can’t achieve success either.

If you have insights or recommendations as to what we should be doing to help you succeed, we want to hear from you. Don't hesitate to contact your local Abaco representative, or contact me directly. We look forward to those conversations.

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