At Freefly I learned a great deal about the stage-gate product development process used for mechatronics product development. To articulate my understanding of the process and to better align hardware, software, and cross functional efforts, I designed a single graphic containing the recommended actions/checkpoints for all branches of the team.
I find the following items vital to a successful product development cycle:
Utilizing each gate as an opportunity for reflection and assessment. Sometimes the best thing to do for a project is to pull the plug, and this should be done at a gate.
Fully functional prototype in stage 2 in order to make business decisions, set requirements, and ensure scope is understood.
Multiple cycles in stage 3 with feedback from stakeholders and users to catch assumptions or design holes before tooling is cut and the design is locked.
A full DVT/Beta stage to ensure the user experience is as expected by product management.
Hard scope lock after DVT/Beta with any resulting changes being re-tested from EVT and the schedule being formally re-assessed.
This visual helped me track where I was in the process on any given project and understand the cross-dependencies between arms of the team. It also helped with accurately estimating the remaining timeline of the project.