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8th December 2021

Feasibility Studies: Tips from an electronics engineer

Feasibility studies guide

What are feasibility studies?

A product feasibility study looks at whether the thing you are trying to do and how you are trying to do it is realistically achievable with budget and time constraints. Are you approaching this in the right way?

A feasibility study is largely used to identify and address as many of the foreseeable risks at the start of a project to avoid getting towards the end of the project and discovering a major unforeseen roadblock. At Ignys we often talk about ‘failing fast’ and how this can be a powerful thing that helps you achieve your end goal faster and more cost effectively.

It’s all about saving time and money in the long run. In other words, it is a de-risking exercise. It will also aid in coming up with the product specifications so that the product can be designed to strike a balance with feature set, development time and target cost.

“Everything in the design process is a compromise. Adapt a pragmatic approach. Do a few things and do them well.”

Nicholas Shattock Embedded Electronics Engineer, Feasibility Studies

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When Product Development…Becomes a Chore

It can be really tempting for you to look at new product development with a bells and whistles approach. There is strong pressure to include all the latest technology and incorporate all the greatest features. You want to seriously impress your target audience and fend off any competitors. Whilst creating the ultimate product is desirable think hard about what is achievable and realistic. If your goal is to make a successful product then there may be more than one way to go about it. For example including everything may actually water down the appeal and success of your project. Hence the famous phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Working out the best route for your product and what is sensible and viable as part of the project is the key to a productive feasibility study.

Understanding the best way to make an achievable product

Compromise with Success in Mind.

The trick is to create the best achievable product. Imagine the best possible product and then re-evaluate what is truly needed, what makes up the core essence and desirability of your new product.

It is tempting to look at every competitor on the market and aim to do everything they offer plus extra. What is more you want to do this at the lowest cost per unit, minimise the design expense, coupled with a speedy launch date all in a small slick product.

However these factors all compete for your time and money. For example, you can’t design in every feature and then expect to enter the market quickly when thorough product testing and complex design work is required.

Remember, you want reliable product that does what it does well and will sell at a competitive price point.

Each new Feature adds risk

Every new feature or integrated technology adds risk. The more you add the more complex the project becomes. This is because:

  • Each new features may result in greater product volume and power consumption.
  • More features mean that more product testing is required. Such as environmental product testing.
  • Each new feature extends the amount of development required.
  • More hardware elements mean more sourcing requirements and more manufacturing complexity, increasing the chance of something going wrong.
  • Each new feature adds to the cost of electronic product development and potentially design and manufacturing time too.
  • Each new feature increases the risk of incompatibility and edge cases that can only be picked up with a rigorous product testing procedure.

Future Features are possible

Getting a solid product on the market to test profitability and generate brand awareness should be the first step in your product journey but it by no means has to be the end goal.

Minimise Risk

Minimising risk early on by keeping the essential features means you can test the concept and add new features later on in future versions of your project.

You can then generate a revenue stream through a slick design process which allows you to help iron out the initial risk.

Seek extra awards

Once you are comfortable you can then take on more risk with new features; with your eye on those extra rewards such as customer satisfaction and extra value added sales.

Avoid too much complexity

If you start by trying to include everything the complexity and risk of your project goes through the roof.

“One element not working quite correctly can cause issues for the whole product.”

Keep it simple first

Most likely you don’t have the money to weather all unforeseen issues with a complex design so by using a simple proof of concept demonstrator as a first version, to impress investors or generate interest is usually the best route if you are launching your first product.

“Adapt a pragmatic approach. Do a few things and do them well.”

Less is more

Often less is more when it comes to electronic product design. You want your customers to shout about how great your product is, chances are there will be one main thing they love about your product. Too many features can confuse at best and effect reliability and usability at its worst. Remember too many features can drain battery life too.

Great ways to get the most out of your feasibility studies with forward planning

Evaluate what is Essential

Understand what is essential or desirable for your project and separate these elements into categories. Which boundaries can you shift?

The best way to do this is to ask yourself why you need that feature or specification. For example:

Product performance

Statement “I need 24/7 battery life.” Ask yourself does your product really need this? Or is this a nice-to-have option. Will your product truly be in a situation where there is no access to any power for 24 hours?

Remember extra design costs will end up being passed on to you or your customers. If this extra benefit isn’t going to impress your audience that much then is it really worth the extra time, money and risk?

Deadlines

Look at hard limits vs soft limits. Will you miss a deadline for getting investment or to demonstrate your proof of concept product at a trade show? Or did you just promise yourself you’d launch your new product in the next 6 months because it was a nice goal to aim to?

Features and Technology

Split features out into ‘I would like it to’ vs ‘it has to.’

Does the feature underpin the perceived value of the product entirely?

Also think about whether adding certain technologies will require added licencing or membership commitments such as Bluetooth integration for example.

Prioritise by importance

Another way to help you decide what to focus on is to prioritise by importance. That way if time is running short or you have to make difficult choices you’ll understand where which features or specifications can be adjusted to still have a viable product.

“Our job is to navigate this list of priorities and to recommend compromises if needed to make sure your product is the best it can be and most suitable for application”  You need to help by providing us with the right information to help you do this.

Advice for our customers

We are known for our refreshing honesty on our discovery calls. A great way to see if we make a good fit as your best electronics design partner or not.

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Share your priorities

You need to tell us which parts of your project are concrete, and which are flexible for example….

Embrace our honesty

Here at Ignys, we provide open and honest feedback on electronics design and software development projects.

Often people come to us having been told that their smaller budgets are perfect and all deadlines can be met with every feature intact.

At Ignys we often help to put some perspective in place. We see projects specs day in day out and have extensive hardware and
embedded software development experience which means we have a good feel for avoiding potential stumbling blocks along the way.

Our number one priority is to help you succeed. If that means taking a slightly longer route to get the perfect version of your product out there, surely that extra time to get it right is ultimately worth it?

Which scenario are you?

For the two scenarios below there are very different approaches to the design process.

Is your product that we are designing a proof of concept? For example is the product designed to demonstrate functionality to investors to secure funding? If so, it may be that the target cost and size of the product are not initially met on purpose. The goal will be to show off the product to the right people without burning through excessive
budget.

For example, long term strategies such as value engineering are great for volume manufacture and keeping product unit costs
down but for the first version of a product this can sometimes just add unnecessary costs and time to a project.

In some cases, you may want to add in particular features to check the software is working correctly and design these out later. We can help advise you on this.

The second scenario is better for volume manufacture. Where you need it to hit target cost per unit, be the desired size with performance battery life. In this situation less is more.

How unusual your design is will also play a roll, is your product design a known area or pushing new boundaries.

So, when are you starting your feasibility study?

Get advice from the Elektra Design Team of the Year 2021.

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