It might be insightful to look back at how product development competitiveness has evolved in the past, and to consider what might be emerging now in this regard. For complex highly-engineered products, the progression could look like this. At the start of the new century, many  companies started considering product lifecycle management (PLM). Now as we head into 2012, there is expectation that the product development function will step up (transform) for the vitality and good of the enterprise. This is how I see it at this point.

Competitive Focus – From a product development (PD) perspective,
competitiveness = margin size X market share X margin on the product(s).
Over time these focus areas have been afforded much diligence. Whether companies are old or new, they are now assumed to have PD capabilities that lets them compete across all these focus areas. And here’s the kicker going forward – all capabilities have to honed and applied with new levels of respect and satisfaction for the customer. Customers have new powers and the competition for their favor is increasingly personal and intense.

PD Strategy – I am hard pressed to say what is or will be emerging as the dominate PD strategy of these times. DRM Associates does a nice job of laying out the options (

Technology Focus – Product structure is vital and new progressive approaches are apt to be achieved this decade, giving adopters significant competitive advantage. Product structure driven from PD can be largely beneficial to many stakeholders, and has a relatively good chance of enabling a “closed-loop manufacturing nirvana”. This suggests technology aspects of product structure, but there are deep cultural implications to be addressed along the way. (engineering versus manufacturing). It likely becomes a challenge to define and implement product structure in context of other current technologies such as business analytics.

Process Focus – Systems engineering, that definition of it which has tight integration with (if not inclusion of) requirements management, helps bring the voice of the customer into product decisions. Systems engineering can help make the entire organization aware of what needs to be done and gives everyone a path for contributing, especially if approached with the right companion technology. Systems engineering applied to electronics has gotten recent attention and shown successes which likely continues, given that electrical content in products grows unabated.

Organizational Focus – Some companies are approaching new definitions/expectations of globalization and for some it is required improvements. Our world continues to shrink and even companies that have “gone global” now have a new line of sight into what it means to operate productively on a global basis. Companies are taking a critical look at their global operations in context of new customer expectations and support technologies. There is need for a common shared enterprise view that makes its way into decisions and priorities and predictable work practices, which for some needs to support products being  built anywhere for sale anywhere.