Last year was a very good one for the high tech sector, with the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization reporting that the semiconductor sector grew by 10% in 2014. This year and next, however, are expected to be more difficult, with mobile computing (smartphones and tablets) peaking and the rest of the systems business expected to experience tepid or even zero growth. As a result, the WSTS is forecasting only 3.5% growth for semiconductors in 2015 and just 3.1% in 2016.
The next two years will be tough on the chip sector. Budgets for new hires will be trimmed, which means product development departments will simply have to make do with the teams they have despite the fact that competitive pressure to add value to products will not ease up.
The key to any significant growth will have to be at the expense of market rivals. In order to take market share, chip companies will have to add greater value to their offerings than their competitors while executing on new product development more quickly, efficiently and reliably.
Industry veterans know that planning and executing programs and projects is the Achilles Heel of almost every silicon company. In 2012, an EE Times survey discovered that over half of product development programs are not new designs but enhancements, optimizations and refinements of existing offerings. Nevertheless, despite the inherently lower risk and reduced complexity of such projects, 58% of them either finished late or, in some cases, not at all.
Even so, there are a handful of chip companies that carry out project and program management superlatively. These are also consistent winners and leaders in high tech. What is it that they know which most other chip firms don't?
Admiral Chester Nimitz, the father of the Nuclear Navy, was commander in chief of all United States and Allied forces in the Pacific Theatre during the Second World War. Nimitz always kept a 3×5 index card on his desk where he had written his three favorite guidelines:
- Is the proposed operation likely to succeed?
- What might be the consequences of failure?
- Is it in the realm of practicability in terms of materiel and supplies?
High tech companies that execute successfully on what they attempt know Admiral Nimitz's guidelines instinctively. What is it, then, that the top chip firms understand about projects and their management that everyone else hasn't figured out yet? Click on the slideshow below to find out.
The truth is that high tech is no longer an industry where you can feel confident you'll live to fight another day; in fact, it's become a Darwinian struggle. Running a technology company at maximum effectiveness is now a primary strategic imperative, and organizing company operations to meet that imperative is absolutely vital.