Let’s look briefly at cause and effect. In previous notes on this subject, I remarked choices between in-sourced or outsourced information technology solutions in an electrical design processes yield consequences . What’s in it for you? Knowing more about these issues will inform your choices.
A common way of referring to a tangle of human-factor issues is to say decisions are “political.”
Radical reactionaries and militant conservatives
Whether you should have, for instance, systems integration and change management procedures embedded in home-grown systems or bought-in tools is something hard to isolate and measure. People’s careers are affected when a way of working is modified, when new software tools are implemented. Listening to and working with customers as they deploy CHS my experience is that the roles and responsibilities of key individuals are seldom changed. You have to deal with existing flexibility or inflexibility of teams. An example is whether electrical systems design engineers do their own schematics or whether the schematics are provided internally as an ECAD service.
“Politics” is descriptive of this sort of subjectivity – an analogy with the way in civil society power relationships are organized. In the wider world, although you might not be interested in politics, politics is interested in you. Similarly in your career, you might not be involved in the choice of electrical interconnect design to manufacturing tool suite, but it will have an impact on you whether you like it or not. So you might as well participate if you have the chance – the results are heading your way.
Green Field or Brown Field
It is rare for re-drawing of the org-chart to coincide with adopting new tools. In start-up mode business process engineering takes place because managers and executives are translating a vision into a mission. Commercial off-the-shelf solutions go in easier in freshly created divisions. A green field site comes without preconceptions, without legacy tools.
Mature electrical design teams present more of a challenge to implement general-purpose sector-neutral tools. Business process re-engineers in brown-field sites get a shallow welcome – pain may be tolerable, the mission is ingrained. Design to manufacturing steps for wiring harnesses have been done basically the same way for many years.
Engineering staff may have evolved skepticism through previous struggles with IT tools. I have experienced at some customers low expectations commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) tools can be configured to a ‘set-in-stone’ process.
People have long memories for trauma. If internal software development resources fill the vacuum left by a collapsed purchased-in system that dramatic re-direct of resources is long remembered. A large investment in an internally developed solution is naturally jealously guarded. You know an internal team cannot run away, cannot hide from an ongoing need to support the application. In evaluating alternatives, you can fall into the trap of assuming that reputable vendors are looking to do disreputable things – like hide from their responsibilities, tempt and withdraw then up-sell on price, take the money and run.
Carrying on with grow-your own is a conservative step, mitigating the risk that your vendor lets you down. I work for a vendor, I can assure you they don’t plot to let you down. I know at least one which doesn’t!
Larger projects, amplified problems and riskier risks.
Piloting a new workflow with a new system takes preparation. Switching from in-house development to off-the-shelf tools doesn’t grant you an exception. Having a small program on which to first go live is really helpful – and performing pre-production trials, acceptance tests for functionality/performance is important.
Below is an org-chart abstraction of a typical CHS customer deployment. A median CHS installation will cover multiple layers of management, have cross-departmental range, span across time-zones.
In a multi-faceted environment like this to have a tool like CHS ready for the infrastructure and organizational challenges is essential.
One crucial way you can convert your reliance on home-grown tools is through a strong application programming interface (API) on your COTS solution. You can re-build the utilities you decide you need as carry over; reconstruct the value add; re-make the intellectual property; plug-in engineering know-how. What’s private to your company nobody else can see.
One of my favorite strengths of CHS is the API and Web Services extensibility. Customer have a tailored CHS experience. The CHS extensibility has documentation which comes with the software install describing the java classes etc. Mentor supplies consulting expertise, support. On the excellent Mentor Communities (accessible with your support contract) there’s a plug-in library of example code, and you can interact with the expertise of CHS developers.
Having your cake and eating it too.
What else would you do with cake – plant tomato seedlings in it or conceal a stuffed sparrow in there? That’s always seemed a strange phrase to me.
Why is this attractive – because (referring back to a principle established in part one) – CHS customers always have a mixture of home-grown and vendor-sourced electrical interconnect design and manufacturing tools. Owning CHS doesn’t mean you have to give up those terribly clever utilities, interfaces and tweaks you get from within your own organization. CHS has been designed to supercharge them.
Choosing between in-house development tools or a vendor off-the-shelf package is not the gift to polemicists it was.