The buzz in the telematics industry lately is centered around why it's not living up to expectations. Ford and Qualcomm recently ended their multi-million dollar telematics joint venture called Wingcast, which was one of the major players in the industry. Two years ago, projections for the telematics market in 2010 were in the $40 billion range; newer studies now put that amount closer to $20 billion. Telematics suppliers are cutting staff, and automotive manufacturers are scaling back telematics initiatives. So what's the problem?
Developing a new product or service is tricky. When everything goes well, the product can redefine a market or even create an entirely new one, to the benefit of its manufacturer and its consumers. When the product doesn't click with its audience, though, the costs—development, employee, manufacturing—can be staggering. How do you ensure that your new product doesn't flop? One effective method is to conduct a requirements definition phase before developing a new product.
Requirements definition simply means "figuring out what to make before you make it." This process is not unique to software products. Architects, for instance, go through a requirements definition phase before they start construction on a home. They talk to the future home owner and determine how many floors and rooms will be in the house, where the bedroom should be, if there's a deck, and so on. Similarly, in the product development world, requirements definition enables you to make appropriate decisions about the functionality and design of a product before you invest time and money developing it. By bridging the gap between the needs of the market and those of your organization, requirements definition significantly reduces guesswork in technology product planning, and helps ensure that business and engineering are working on the same product.
This article is one in an occassional series on design documentation. The first article in this series, Bridging the gap with requirements definition, by Ryan Olshavsky, discussed how to document the needs of the user and the domain issues relevant to the design of products. The second article, Turning requirements into product definition, by Jonathan Korman, discussed how you get from an understanding of your users to a vision for an innovative product that appeals to them. The present article discusses how a detailed specification of the form and behavior takes the guesswork out of product development.