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Agility at the enterprise level is a challenging journey. Among the top challenges are changes required in mindset and culture in addition to agile practice adoption (doing agile). And agility in the embedded systems domain (AinE) is even more challenging in “being agile” as well as “doing agile”.

Some of the contributors to the challenges are:

  1. Software while it is a critical component in AinE, it is only one part of the overall product which traditionally has followed a milestone / stage-gate approach (“waterfallish”); process standards (like ASPICE in automotive) and safety requirements further reinforce the need for a fresh ground-up thinking
  2. Development of embedded systems often requires a number of suppliers coming together (such as for hardware, middleware etc.) for an optimal adoption of agile methods across the ecosystem
  3. Many requirements for agile adoption are driven by the ever-shifting technology landscape and the shrinking time-to-market in industries like the automotive domain
  4. Structurally, development organizations are organized along specializations and domain competencies resulting in silos and multiple hand-offs; a careful choice of component or feature-based development approaches would help in resolving consequent challenges
  5. Transparency-Inspect-Adapt is key for agile. In embedded systems, feedback loops are much longer since they depend on multiple levels of integration across hardware, firmware, software and system for adaptation

As a result, many organizations have not benefitted from agile adoption as expected. Refer survey on Agile in Automotive – State of Practice 2021.

Ok, that’s somewhat of an inside view.

On the outside, faster & innovative products are needed now than ever before, be it automotive, media & entertainment, energy, industrial automation, telecom and so on. Hence, organizations are under significant pressure to address the challenges outlined above to improve overall agility and value delivery. Software would increasingly become a critical and significant component of embedded systems and end up as a potential bottleneck.

We believe that many of the challenges above can be addressed by:

  • Promoting a “virtual network operating system” in the organization overlaid on top of existing hierarchies for faster responses to the market and more innovative products & solutions; refer SAFe description of the virtual network operating system
  • Adopting a much more contextual agile adoption covering
    • Agile practices that need to be modified and applied while keeping in sync with agile Values and Principles; rather than say, Scrum by the book
    • New ways by which compliance requirements (such as ASPICE, ISO26262 for functional safety in automotive…) can be addressed while enabling agility
    • Improving engineering practices and tools including in-house tool & framework development as needed
    • Equipping people playing new roles such as System Engineer, Safety Engineer, Security Engineer, Program Manager and so on over & above the roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner and the Team; refer guidance from SAFe on roles
    • Addressing culture and mindset changes required of managers and leaders to encourage more exploratory approaches to fulfill customer needs

The above contextual approach is captured in PM Power’s Agile in Embedded Systems (AinE). AinE has evolved over time based on the years of experience of PM Power consultants and would continue to evolve and be enriched.

In conclusion, many embedded system development organizations are at a significant inflection point in adapting to the demands on them and continuous innovation. The time to act is NOW – the very future is at stake.

Please do share your comments and experiences. You can reach us at AinE@pm-powerconsulting.com.

Thank you!

ShivK