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Harris takes on

Developing a product not only involves the hard data typically associated with the product data management tools but also soft data. Soft data, you ask?

That's what Workgroup Technology Center (WTC, www.workgroup.com) is calling "the process, people and ideas" involved in product development. To corral the soft data, WTC has unveiled OpCenter as a "knowledge-based program management solution." Another moniker?

Call it what you will, Andrew Rodondi, manager of engineering configuration control for Harris Corp.'s microwave communications division (Redwood Shores, CA), calls it useful. The microwave data network manufacturer recently started using OpCenter as a beta customer and is beginning to see benefits. "The data is available instantly," said Rodondi, and is easier to report and identify, and gets visibility where it's needed.

"All are singing from the same hymnal page," said Rodondi.

Harris is a longstanding customer of WTC's traditional PDM products, but has interest in working with OpCenter to smooth the product-to-market cycle. The collaboration capabilities can help highlight potential problem areas that might otherwise go unnoticed.

WTC touts the product as covering some traditional functions such as process management, project management, business process re-engineering and workflow.

Regarding workflow, Rodondi has seen an early advantage in routing deliverables to responsible parties quickly rather than "via the sneaker game."

WTC President and CEO John McDonough sees OpCenter evolution at Harris and at other customer sites as a tool for harnessing knowledge. By collecting real-time information from all team members on a project, OpCenter is designed to capture and implement best practices, optimize resources and explore "what- if" scenarios.

McDonough keyed in on the business problem of product-to-market time. Often it becomes clear that a product is going to be late about 30 days out, long after easy fixes can be made, he said. Products often go to market late, over budget and chewing up more resources than planned. By having deliverables electronically managed and quickly routed, problems are addressed sooner in the process, he said

The product-to-market issue is a big one, which OpCenter is well placed to help, according to Arthur Andersen Consulting's (www.arthurandersen.com) James Kristoff. "In many companies today, the introduction of new products is a strategic weapon to beat the competition," said Kristoff. "The challenge for most organizations is to decrease the time-to-market by effectively managing a complex product development process and to maximize return on investment and shareholder value through efficient utilization of limited resources. WTC OpCenter provides a comprehensive approach to the complexities of product development."

The focus on the "soft data" is an evolution of WTC's strengths, according to Nathaniel Palmer, senior analyst at The Delphi Group (www.delphigroup.com). Its strength, like Wizdom Systems (www.wizdomsystems.com) and Mesa Systems Guild (www.mesasys.com), has been more on work management than the CAD/CAM/CIM concepts of PDM, he said. "Much of this work management is defined as processes, not design automation, and it can be legitimately positioned into the KM space--creating a corporate record on who/what/why/how work is performed," he said.

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