NCET helps you explore business and technology
By Gisele B Mascarich
With all the software tools, technology experts, and data available to businesses today, why do 90% of all projects fail? Why do 75% of venture-backed startups with the best-of-the-best ideas fail? Volumes have been written on this topic suggesting various reasons and solutions. Fundamentally, the real reason for failure is a lack of focus. The solution? Systems thinking.
The goal for any product or service is to satisfy the customer. Systems thinking is the best way to achieve that goal. The International Council on Systems Engineering (“INCOSE”) defines a system as a construct or collection of different elements that together produce results not achievable by the elements alone. The elements, or parts, can include people, hardware, software, facilities, policies; that is, all things required to produce systems-level results.
Systems thinking principles:
1. Focus. Understand the problem you are solving for your customers. Customer input is KEY! What are they wanting from your product or service? Define the key measures of success for the product/service in their minds—not yours. Customer needs are customer requirements. Systems thinking tools at this stage are extremely powerful for group information sharing and communication. It’s how the Story for the product is developed.
2. Context. Understand the environment, the users, and the context of how and when your product or service will be used. This is critical to define what features are needed, and when they are needed. In systems engineering circles, this information is traditionally labeled the Concept of Operations or “ConOps.” This is a key document for the team to understand the product or service desired and the context of its use. This is also a useful document for preparing a test environment to validate your product or service. This is not the phase for solving the need, but rather to articulate how the solution will be deployed, by who, and in what environment.
3. Communication. Develop a vision statement (the Story) for the product or service. Communicate that vision to everyone on your team: marketing, customer service, development, manufacturing, field personnel. Everyone needs to be on-board with the goal and mission of the service or product.
4. Putting structure to the System (Trade-Off analysis / Feasibility Study). The interdisciplinary team will develop alternative solutions and compare and contrast them against the key measures of success developed in step 1 to narrow down the selection to a single solution. The alternative solutions developed may need to be explained using block diagrams, wire frames, mock-ups, or prototypes. Again, customer input will be key.
5. Iterate. Review the findings with key stakeholders, including your customers, and internal and external stakeholders. Systems thinking is about sharing ideas, working as a team, and communication. Subject matter experts at key points in the process help better define the problem, use cases, and viable solutions.
Applying Systems Thinking skills gives you a clearer definition of what the customer needs and how best to meet that need.
Learn about Systems Thinking at NCET’s Biz Cafe on at Rounds Bakery on June 19. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. More info at www.NCETcafe.org
Gisele B Mascarich is a Senior Systems Engineer who defines and delivers successful products and services. Gisele has provided her expertise and knowledge in the Industrial IOT, Computer, Communication, Healthcare, and Oil & Gas Industries.