Article: Distributed Development for Products

Product Development is a collaborative effort requiring inputs from various disciplines. All these disciplines need not be housed under one roof. This is the concept of Distributed Development. This concept has helped in the successful execution of large scale engineering projects at a global scale, with different components being manufactured at separate locations. This article underlines some of the processes needed.

1. Central Design Team

The first and most important process is the establishment of a Central Design Team. The team should consist of subject matter experts from all required disciplines. This team would coordinate and verify the work done by independent people. This is the glue that holds everything together.

2. Detailed Specifications

The Distributed Development process does not work, unless all independently acting people know what exactly they are supposed to do. This requires detailed specifications regarding all aspects of the product. There should be no doubt as to what each person or group is developing.

3. Work Allocation

The Central Design Team has to assign suitable work to people or groups with the right skill set to execute that part of the job.

4. Communication Mechanisms Among Groups

Doubts if any must be resolved quickly. Progress in work should be notified to others. Mechanisms for changes due to bottlenecks must be setup. This requires the establishment of effective communication procedures among different groups. Regular updates, and a centralized delivery or build management system is useful.

5. Work Product Verification

Central Design Team must set up parameters and procedures for verifying whether the work assigned to a group has been completed. It should also be able to judge level of progress, and time required. Will a delay in execution by one group affect another group? If so what can be done to reduce this. These are some of the steps needed.

6. Sequencing

Product Development sometimes requires work products to be developed in a certain order. This order creates efficiencies in cost and time. Very important that the correct order of individual work is defined, and the sequence maintained throughout the development cycle.

7. Testing

No product can be developed without testing. A special group of experts in Test Procedure must write detailed test sequences for each independent work group.

8. Assembly Procedures

Final assembly of product requires the shipping of all different work products to one location. It also requires a special group experienced in product assembly to setup assembly procedures and Quality Control Measures


Distributed Development will enable build of complex products requiring multi-disciplinary expertise. It also means that Product Owners can work with independent groups, to develop such products. This brings efficiencies in cost and time, while improving Product Quality.

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