It happened to me again today. Someone asked me for information that I know I have on my hard drive, somewhere in my archival “system.” All I had to do was find the file and send it to the person and life would be good. How hard can that be?
Instead, I spent 20 minutes searching through my C: drive. Surely, I had put it in a safe place where it was easy to find. Often, I end up with important things archived as email, so I checked my humongous inbox and a few of my large email archives. (I do save everything. Disk storage is cheap.)
Success! I did find the file and sent it to my colleague who was pleased to see it.
All Too Common
I’m sure this has never happened to you. You are organized. You know where all your important documents are and can access them instantly. But for most of us, we struggle with managing data.
Recently, a study of design engineers found that many of them are wasting 20% of their technical time on nonproductive data management tasks. That is one day per week. I was surprised by how large this number was so we asked our customers about this issue. Sure enough, many of them reported similar percentages of wasted time in their teams, so this problem is real. What would you give to improve your engineer’s effectiveness by 20%?
I suppose this should not surprise us. We live in the information age, but many of our tools are not that great at handling information. It seems that most of these tools put the burden on the user to manage the data, instead of automating the task.
Make Decisions and Get to Market
The pressure to get products to market fast never stops. Being first to market is a critical factor in most industries.
When we asked customers about their frustrations with managing design-related data, we got an earful.
Yes, they see wasted time due to fumbling with their data, and this results in engineering inefficiency. More importantly though, they often lacked confidence in the data they used to make key decisions. Is the design ready to be released to manufacturing? Well, the data indicates so, but are we looking at the right data?
Often, an expert engineer has to personally check the data to be sure it is right. In some cases, customers reported that they rerun a set of measurements because they aren’t confident in the archived data. It shouldn’t be this difficult or time consuming.
Figure 1: Management of product development data must be integrated into the enterprise systems
Easy access to the right data is never the end goal. There is always some business decision in play based on the data (check out Brad Doerr's post Extracting Insights from Your Messy Data for another perspective). What we really want and need is to be able to pull insight from our design and test data, to make critical decisions quickly and with confidence.
Check out this whitepaper where I explore the topic more fully and learn what actions you can take: Accelerate Innovation by Improving Product Development Processes