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The road to success in embedded software

Posted: 09 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded software? open-source? software development?

Despite being complex and challenging, writing embedded software code is not exactly "rocket science" or a magic only a few people can do; in fact, it is doable by a wide range of people with a broad set of skills. But what is much more difficult is systems integration involving a multitude of different software programs.

Thus this challenge of system integration will continue to be a major focus as the embedded software industry gears up for one of its largest annual shows, the Symbian Smartphone event in London from October 14 to 16. I believe the event will be pivotal in determining the future direction of the industry. This is because the industry is moving and changing quickly, has many simultaneous dynamics and interrelated industries, and is sharply competitive because of its huge potential (cell phones are one of the world's hottest technologies and will continue to be for the next several years at the least).

Tips and tricks
Having worked as a technology consultant and active participant in the communications handset software industry for the past decade, I'll offer several ideas below to consider when preparing for the show. I hope these will help companies achieve sustained high performance levels of industry-leading growth in profit, market share and revenue.

  • Devise an industrialized approach to embedded software development. This means standardizing operating systems, employing open-source software, and setting up repeatable processes to streamline testing and development of embedded software. Industrialization needs to be matched with embedded software users' biggest concerns, including the management of programs and software defects with the least possible amount of overhead.

    Such an industrialized approach helps device manufacturers manage their product costs by catching errors earlier in the production phase, reducing total time to delivery, lowering engineering costs, minimizing project risk, improving product quality, and providing efficient use of people, processes and investment resources.

    The improvements from industrializing will be immense. Rather than throwing software "over the wall" and forcing recipients to figure out what to do with it, the embedded software industry should progress together in a solution-oriented, collaborative way. Collaboration is one of the industry's biggest challenges, yet one of its most vital requirements. "Going it alone" in this industry is a recipe for trouble.

  • In managing embedded software's technical complexity, recognize that it is vital to have systems integration capability as well as the expertise to coordinate various layers of ecosystem dynamics and elements. The coordination requires superior skills in operating a Project Management Office (PMO). In such PMOs it is important to know how and when to say "No" to doing projects.

  • Recognize that many of the embedded software ecosystem players are globally distributed. Therefore, it is critical that onshore presence exists (such as engineering expertise for projects taking place in several dozen countries).

  • Apply the next level of quality scrutiny beyond the campaign slogans of "CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) Level-5 Compliant" often used in the industry. Tracking software defects by stage gate and compiling software metrics is essential to success in the embedded software arena.

  • Offer differentiated end-to-end process management, such as start-to-finish product design roadmaps, embedded software milestones and product launching and testing. End-to-end management means driving the start of the software project until its completion. This will help alleviate inadequate product testing, one of the industry's biggest problems.

  • Gather and manage customer requirements to bring successful products to market, coordinate the efforts of software and hardware designers, test products to help confirm market-readiness and work with outside companies.

  • Master the skills of integration. This means embracing a converged system-level design approach for integrating into a smart phone the embedded software and hardware made by different vendors. This system understanding is in high demand and provides a major opportunity for differentiation.

  • Emphasize timely delivery of products to the market. The late delivery of products is ranked among the top three biggest challenges the industry faces, according to an Accenture survey last year. I believe this still to be the case. More than 50 percent of software designs are completed behind schedule, and 24 percent of projects are cancelled because of unrecoverable delays in product development schedules. Late deliveries of embedded software-based products are too frequent and destroy entire businesses. One of the most effective ways to stand out in this market is to deliver a reliable product when promised.

    Converting these ideas into actions should translate to a plethora of embedded software business opportunities. A few timely onesto give you a sense of what is actually happening in this industryinclude:

  • mobile wireless applications to help major cable TV companies test new technologies
  • development and long-term maintenance of a company's existing messaging and charging platforms
  • support of the development of car navigation software
  • management and testing of software requirements for companies' video processor units
  • charging, mediation, activation and provision of network inventory management

    The embedded software market is a crucial linchpin driving convergence throughout electronics and high-tech. This type of software should be on your radar screen as a promising business opportunity that isn't as complex as it may seem and that has more opportunities than you might have otherwise believed.

    - Abhijit Kabra
    Senior Executive, Product Engineering and Development Business

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