In February of 2018, Keysight unveiled its vision for a new design and test engineering platform. Named “PathWave”, this platform will improve productivity and accelerate time-to-market by linking parts of the product development workflow that have up until now remained independent and siloed.
But wait, you may ask,
"Are product development platforms still relevant?"
Historically, in the context of development platforms, the word ‘platform’ has most often been used to describe a collection of tools that work together. In their recent book, “Platform Revolution,” Parker, Van Alstyne and Choudary discuss the platform business model, and the way that companies such as Facebook, PayPal and Uber have revolutionized their respective industries with innovative platforms. One of their observations is that these companies have taken a customer-focused, end-to-end view of the goals that consumers are trying to accomplish. They then single-mindedly built platforms to optimize the rapid and efficient completion of those goals.
I believe that this same concept applies to product development platforms. Modern development platforms should be focused on the customers’ ultimate end-goal, and not only on the individual steps along the journey. We constantly hear from our customers that their most important end goal is reducing their time-to-market.
It’s not hard to find examples of companies that appeared to be in a leadership position at the technology prototype phase, but who then ultimately failed (were late to market and did not meet their financial targets). These companies overlooked what would be required in the next step of the development process, and essentially had to start over in their quest to develop a robust, ‘manufacturable’ product.
Sadly, I have personal experience with this! Many years ago, as an R&D engineer, I developed a working prototype of a new kind of radar speed detector. My design helped solve one of the most difficult problems associated with these devices: isolating a single vehicle in dense traffic. The prototype worked extremely well in field trials and impressed potential customers. Unfortunately, in my rush to develop the prototype, I hadn’t considered what it would take to bring this product to market. My company determined that their window of opportunity would have passed by the time the product was completely redesigned, and the project was then abandoned.
Predicting what's next
Like a good chess player, a good product development platform anticipates what will happen next and prepares in advance. Fatal errors, such as the one that had occurred with my project, can be mitigated with a predictive approach.
Allow me to give a really trivial example. When someone writes a document in Microsoft Word, the Microsoft Office platform anticipates that the writing stage is not the end of the process. The platform predicts that you will need to take further steps, such as have someone else review and edit the document, publish it, print it, email it, or use it in another application. It makes the next step easy because it prepares for the next action in advance.
It is a mistake to think that a good platform is merely a collection of tools that work together. The best platform providers take their knowledge and experience of the complete end-to-end process and incorporate that knowledge into the platform. I like to think of this as building “process intellectual property” into the platform.
At Keysight, we are doing just that. It’s one of the reasons we use the word “predictive” to describe our new PathWave platform. We know that building "process intellectual property" into a platform is not easy to do, but the rewards for users are huge in terms of productivity and time-to-market.
(I’ll add that we are also using the word ‘predictive’ to describe another issue that a good development platform should address: the ability to anticipate design and equipment failures before they occur. We'll discuss these issues elsewhere.)
Let me finish by answering the question above
Yes, product development platforms are not only still relevant; they are a necessity in order to stay competitive. However, a good platform needs to be more than a collection of interoperable tools. A good platform is one that is predictive and makes it easier for users by anticipating their future tasks.
I’d welcome your comments!