In embedded systems design, value is not just a monetary number. We need more ethical and value-driven design practices for true innovation in our world.
The dictionary definitions of "value" are aligned with "financial or monetary worth of something (or market price)." In a product-engineering context, we'll consider "value" at a broader level as "relative worth, utility, or criticality' or "something intrinsically desirable." Any team that is involved in product engineering needs to develop a culture that nurtures as many value enablers as possible to increase product value. One way to begin this is to eliminate value destructors. Value destructors can be tasks or processes that do not add value to the end product.
It's so obvious that elimination of value destructors need to happen right from the design phase. Value destructors impair customer satisfaction and can create negative impact on human community at large. Elimination of value destructors is the first step to initiate value-addition. Often, value-addition is misconceived as a discipline that involves alluring customers in order to increase revenues and profit. In a true sense one of the objectives of any design activity needs to include the process of providing something that will improve the quality of life on this planet.
At a high level, value destruction can happen when a design consumes more energy than expected or takes away more efforts from users (in learning and using the end product) or reaches obsolescence in a shorter duration and hence generates e-waste that create negative efforts on our ecosystem. At the next level, there can be many value destructors that directly impact the structure or behavior of the product.
While the current trend in energy optimization by manufacturers is a good first step in this direction, it's very important that businesses across the world continue their focus on energy optimization for several decades to come. We cannot afford to reverse this trend at the cost of spoiling our ecosystem. Meanwhile, we cannot afford to make products that cost lot of time with no direct means to improve the quality of life. While some customers may get addicted to such products, others will stay away, and eventually such products could create a divide among age groups or cultures. Eventually innovation cannot be rooted in competitive business environments that aim at improving revenues and profits. Any such innovation would lower the quality of our lives and increase e-waste on our planet.
This leads us to think about the need for ethical and value-driven design practices that will promote true innovations in our world. Until we strive for this we will continue to see several gadgets and systems that amuse us in new forms and shapes at frequent intervals with unreal impacts on our living. Don't you agree?
Raja Bavani heads delivery for MindTree's Software Product Engineering (SPE) group. He has more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry and has published papers at international conferences on topics related to code quality, distributed Agile, customer value management, and software estimation. Raja did his masters degree in electronics from Bharathidasan University and pursued a post-graduate diploma in computer science and applications.