[mckinsey quarterly] As more products are loaded with technology, tangled IT designs can undermine product strategies. Product managers and technical specialists need a better game plan.
Today, it seems that just about every product contains some sort of embedded computing technology. Cars, phones, even washing machines boast interactive features that would not have been imaginable, much less affordable, a decade ago.
That such products have entered the mainstream is easy to understand. Smart phones, electronic navigational equipment, and Wi-Fi-enabled TVs offer convenience, portability, and personalization at reasonable prices. But the price of such progress is growing IT architecture1 and design complexity.
Consider the fact that in the past five years, the average number of tech-enabled engine control units in each new vehicle produced by the automotive industry has risen to 80, from 20. In the mobile-phone sector, the number of IT-based updates per year is about 40, more than twice the level back in 2000. And despite challenging economic times, the number of avionics features—from cockpit VoIP and wind sensors to the electronic flight manuals introduced in newer aircraft—has doubled in recent years. The growing demand for electronics-based product enhancements finds companies across industries struggling to keep costs in line amid fast-changing technologies and the constant pressure for product upgrades.
Tackling IT complexity in product design