March 25, 2022 · 3 min read
Requirements are the lodestone that guides the development of our predictive maintenance solution. From collection to translation, validation to verification, we constantly refer back to requirements as the constant that connects concept to reality. Read on to find out why they're so important.
AiSight offers a complete predictive maintenance solution. This includes both hardware and software—the sensors that detect anomalous machine behavior, and the dashboard that interprets sensor data, respectively. These two integrated parts of our product are, themselves, products that were subject to their own development processes. In both cases, their successful development depended on one thing above all: requirements.
Competitive and profitable companies need new products to reach the market in the shortest possible time, at minimal cost. These products also need to satisfy customers’ needs or solve their problems. In order to know what customers require, it's necessary to understand their language! Likewise, it's important to translate their language into engineering terms so that everyone involved in the product's design and manufacturing understands what the product will be. Whatever the language, requirements are a constant—the key to the process of generating the right product.
Communication is Key
Imagine that you want to construct the house of your dreams. There are a lot of things that you want: architecture, colors, many rooms, a garage, a backyard, kitchen appliances—all of the elements that compose your place for life. If the builder has no clear understanding of what you want, the house of your dreams will become the house of your nightmares, subject to frustrating construction delays or going over budget. And even if the builder has a perfect understanding of what you want, but he does not know how to explain it to the subcontractors (painters, plumbers, electricians, and so on), then there is huge potential for this building to be a source of issues and headaches.
The illustration above shows how requirements can be a path to success—and how miscommunicating them can become a disaster for a company. The process of aligning requirements is a time-consuming task, but it should not be ignored or given a low priority. A set of features that are not based on market or specific customers’ demands has a big chance of commercial failure. And requirements that are not properly translated into design requirements lead to longer development time or, in the worst case, a recall.
Finally, requirements are not only based on what customers want–they have to meet legal certifications, such as the CE mark for the European market or FCC requirements for the American market. Ignoring governmental regulations is a risk. All of the investment to launch the product will be lost if the product is not approved under the required standards.
Design Requirement Requisites
Once the product's requirements are identified, the next step is to translate them into design requirements. For example, a hardware product has requirements for electronics, for mechanics, for software, for transportation, for storage, for installation, and many other fields. Here are some best practices for writing requirements.
- The requirements shall be simple, short, and clear - to avoid misunderstandings.
- The requirements shall be feasible - to have a viable product.
- The requirements shall be testable - if we cannot test, we cannot verify that the requirement has been met.
- The requirements shall be complete - missing information will result in a poor design.
Before we begin design according to requirements, we need to validate the requirements. This step is a confirmation that our requirements are the right requirements. In other words, validating requirements ensures that we will design the right product.
Making the Grade
Once everyone is clear on the requirements, we proceed with the design of a prototype according to those requirements. Then comes verification, when we test the design to confirm that the requirements are met. In other words, during verification we check if we designed the product right. This entails creating test plans and procedures according to the requirements applicable to the prototype. If the requirements are well written—defining behaviors, constraints, and efficiency and performance metrics—the generated tests will allow us to make an excellent product.
Of course, requirements can change during development. This is, however, part of the learning process—managing requirements is necessary to ensure that communication with all stakeholders remains open, that we track and understand the effects of changes, and that changes ultimately lead to a better-quality product.
In summary, the process of generating and managing requirements is key to developing a successful product in fewer redesign cycles. That reduces both the time to market and overall cost. Mission accomplished!
This process of requirement-driven design has served us well—the proof is in the product. And we're confident it will continue to do so. If you'd like to learn more about how requirements guide development, we recommend this article on the process we undertook to get our CE mark.
Want to talk about our product and its development? We'd love to hear from you.
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