How to create a product concept and write TOR for electronics development

  • Tutorial

We continue a series of publications on the development and production of sophisticated modern electronics. In previous articles, we honestly told you about the nuances associated with the design and manufacture of prototypes, with mass production, and now it's time to move on to the issues that begin the development of design documentation (CD) and on which the success of the relationship between the customer and the developer depends - creating a product concept and writing technical specifications. These are the first steps towards the production of complex serial devices and software (product).

Product development is a phased process that requires in-depth knowledge and serious preliminary preparation. The exclusion of certain phases of the project increases the risks and shifts them, as a rule, to the final stage of mass production. And this, in turn, can significantly affect the growth of project costs, most often unforeseen (extra-budgetary). Therefore, it is important to go through all stages step by step (some of them can be repeated iteratively, this is a normal process of creating technically complex and competitive products).


Here is a typical list of basic tasks for developing an electronic device:

  1. Product Concept Creation
  2. Technical and commercial development
  3. Development of an electronic device
  4. Assembly and verification of prototypes of products
  5. Preparation for the production and release of the installation batch
  6. Series production
  7. Warranty and after-sales service

Today we will consider the first two points, and the remaining phases of the process will be revealed in the following articles.


1. Creating a product concept

It is at this stage that the idea of ​​a new device takes on the shape of a commercially successful product. Competitors are being evaluated and a comparative table is being compiled - technical level maps (KTU). The choice of the optimal combination of functional and technical characteristics of the product is made and the business model of the entire project is determined.


Technical experts develop a technical and commercial proposal and a concept design for the product with a description of its advantages and functional features. At the same time, business analysts create a business plan. At this stage, additional marketing research, search for investments and other activities can be carried out, the main purpose of which is to get the “picture” of the product life cycle as close as possible to reality.


A product concept may contain the following information:

  • Functional description of the device and a description of the tasks to be solved
  • Technical description of the device
  • Description of performance
  • Preliminary sketches and / or photorealistic images of the device
  • Marketing plan with a description of:

  1. Direct and functional competitors of the device
  2. Target audience
  3. Sales Markets and Dependencies
  4. Typical use cases
  5. Estimated Business Model

Stage results : technical and commercial proposal for the development of the device, as well as a package of documents reflecting the concept of the product (it may slightly change in subsequent stages).


2. Technical and commercial development of the product

At this stage, the developers answer the question "how will the product be implemented?" A preliminary design is created, the choice of device architecture is underway. A technical task (TOR) is being developed, specifications are being created, and examples of product use are analyzed.


As a rule, the main characteristics of the device are already laid down in the business plan, and at the level of technical specifications, more detailed technical study of the product is underway. This is a universal document, and although it is regulated by GOSTs in Russia, the developer can adapt it to the needs of a particular project.


In some cases, development can begin precisely with TK. For example, when you need to modify the finished device, or finalize the products within the existing line, or the customer’s budget does not allow the project to start from the stage of consulting and developing a business plan. Then it is TK that becomes the first and main document describing the future product.


In any case, TK is not just a formal annex No. 1 to the contract. For device developers, this document is the starting point for planning and completing clearly defined tasks. For the customer, this is a vision of the goal and a list of criteria for evaluating the finished product and acceptance of work. It is TK that becomes the basis for effective interaction without controversial issues and misunderstandings. It is imperative that the customer and developer have a common vision of the development process and the expected end result.


Good practice - the most detailed description of the goals and objectives of the project, making a list of the device’s functionality, fixing future work in the field of developing software and hardware platforms, defining the search for a design solution, indicating all the necessary requirements for the future device. Technical specialists are involved in the preparation of technical specifications with the participation of a customer representative; in some cases, users of a future product may be involved.


In the process of preparing the terms of reference:

  • Prices for electronic components are being specified
  • Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are signed with component manufacturers for additional technical information.
  • Basic components selected
  • A preliminary calculation of the cost of the product (BOM) is taking into account the cost of production in different series

At the start of development, it is not always clear how to implement certain functions, more detailed information appears in the subsequent stages, especially for software development. TK is a living working document, the scope of tasks in it can be adjusted and refined, this will affect the assessment of the project cost, therefore it is important to foresee the format for making changes in advance (usually this is done in the form of additions with a description of the old and new version of the TK).


The terms of writing TK depend on the objectives of the project. If this is the development of a typical device with a well-known set of functions, then the first version of the document on the hardware can be obtained in a week, it will take about two weeks to prepare the task for the software.


In some cases, the customer prepares the statement of work on his own, then the developer can only analyze and evaluate the project. This greatly facilitates and accelerates the preparation of a commercial proposal, and also reduces the need for additional communication. Moreover, the finished TK allows the customer to apply with his project to a number of companies and then choose the optimal contractor based on the proposals received (evaluating his competence with the help of clarifying questions).


The result of this stage is the coordination of technical specifications on both sides for the development of a device with a specific architecture and software and hardware platform.


We hope our tips will help you in developing the concept of a new product and in writing technical specifications, as well as in building open and productive relationships with the contractor.

PS An example of the contents of the statement of work for the development of a turnkey device - using this link you can open / download the standard contents of the technical task for the development of electronics with a description of the hardware platform, software, design and construction of the case. This document can be adapted to a specific project and based on it a detailed technical description for the phased development of a new turnkey device.

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