Building to Last: Why Design for Operations is a Game-Changer

A design-for-operations approach shifts our focus from the present to prepping our IoT device for real-world curveballs.
Pat Wilbur
November 21, 2023
designing for operations

We’ve all seen products rushed to market without a long-term vision – the fallout can be challenging and costly. That’s why I believe that building an IoT device isn't just about its features today, but how it'll perform in the years to come. If we don't plan well, the device might be challenging to update, become obsolete sooner, and put users at risk of security compromises.

That's where "design for operations" comes in. It's a bit like the "design for manufacturer" but we’re not just thinking about how to produce a product but also how it will stand the tests of time. A design-for-operations approach shifts our focus from the present to prepping our device for real-world curveballs.

In my recent webinar with IoT for All, I shared more detail on this approach, why it matters and how to do it successfully. Get some of those insights in this article, or watch the entire on-demand here, which also covers security, compliance and connectivity.

What do you risk by ignoring the future of your device?

  • A shorter shelf life: Without considering and working to avoid maintenance needs, you might find it doesn't last as long or work as well as you hoped.
  • Difficulty updating your device: Imagine having to constantly update a device out in the wild. If it's a pain to do over-the-air, it'll cost more time, effort, and money.
  • Falling behind the pack: Tech moves fast. If your device doesn't have the technical capabilities to update and evolve, it can quickly be rendered obsolete by newer products.
  • Opening the door to bad actors: Making updates should be smooth. If it's not, your device might become an easy target for security threats over time.

5 ways to design for operations

Staying a step ahead isn't just ideal – it's a necessity. Here’s a few of my tried-and-true tips:

  1. Rethink your user base: Beyond the end user, your internal teams – such as engineering and support – are involved in the lifecycle of your device. Design from their perspective, with an eye on easier updates, maintenance, and real-world troubleshooting.
  2. Broaden your design scope: Strive for a design that's not just usable, but also maintainable and supportable, enhancing the overall development journey. Infuse forward-thinking strategies, like data instrumentation, to protect your device’s longevity.
  3. Harness the power of data: Tools that log data or enable remote monitoring aren’t just nice-to-haves. They can be critical in untangling unexpected complications.
  4. Champion modular designs: Emphasize components or modules that can be updated or replaced separately from the entire device.
  5. Build in over-the-air update capabilities: The ability to deploy updates remotely allows you to update devices from anywhere, and it offers a shield against potential security threats.

The key takeaway? Think about the full lifespan of your product.

Consider factors such as its intended lifecycle, connectivity, battery life, and unique aspects that could impact remote accessibility. By integrating design for operations into the core of your development process, you not only cater to your end users but also streamline the experience for everyone involved in the product's lifecycle.

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