Is Your Design on the Road to Success (Part 3 of 4)

Do your tools enable you?

In our previous article, we asked the following four questions to help our readers determine whether their design is on the road to success:

  1. Before you begin formal development, do you know exactly what your product will look like, how it will function, and how it will handle fault conditions?
  2. Do your processes allow you to efficiently make changes to designs while meeting FDA and international regulations?
  3. Do the tools your company uses for development, documentation, configuration management, verification, and complaint-handling work well with your processes?
  4. Does your company have a partner that can help you anywhere in your development cycle, from concept through design transfer, from usability to risk management, from process development and improvement to test lab preparation?

This article will focus on the third question, “Do the tools your company uses for development, documentation, configuration management, verification, and complaint-handling work well with your processes?”

It’s very frustrating when you need a screwdriver and don’t have one.  You can try to use your fingernail, a pocket knife, or some flat object lying around, and sometimes you get lucky, but more often than not, you waste your time trying to make something else work like a screwdriver and eventually have to go find one anyway.

The tools your company uses should complement your processes, not fight them.  If you find yourself doing a bunch of extra work to use your tools, you might not have the right tools or might not be using the tools in the way intended.

Consider a requirements management tool that does not support your native requirements document format.  If someone has to recreate each requirement in the tool just so the tool can trace the requirements, it’s probably not the right tool for the job: it takes almost as much effort to set the tool up every time you want to use it as it does to actually use it.

As another example, consider a configuration management tool that doesn’t provide the flexibility you need to store different kinds of files.   If you find that you’re storing some files in one place and others in another, or worse, you’re duplicating files among different configuration management tools, then you’ve definitely got the wrong tool: having multiple copies of files means they’re no longer configuration-managed, and figuring out which version is the right one is at least as hard if not harder than just creating a new copy of the file and appending a timestamp by hand.

Not every tool is intended for use by every organization.  Some tools intended for small businesses bog down under the needs of a large corporation, while some enterprise-level tools require so much configuration and maintenance that keeping them usable becomes a full-time job, a luxury some small businesses cannot afford.  Note, though, that most tools require some configuration; don’t let that prevent you from considering an otherwise great tool.

At Realtime, we use a lot of software tools for requirements management, configuration management, issue tracking, and to produce design outputs and documentation.  We’ve worked with our tool vendors to let our clients piggyback on our toolchain and then transfer it over to our clients on project completion.  This gives your employees hands-on experience using the toolchain before you have to buy it, and our tool validation protocols can quickly be tailored to your processes, further reducing your workload.

Whether you need help choosing a tool, configuring it, learning to use it, or validating it with your processes, give Realtime a call at 972 985-9100 and let us help you with your tool needs!