How semicon firms can achieve high performance — Part II
Friends, as promised, here is the second part of the discussion I had with Accenture’s Scott Grant, based on Accenture’s recent study: Managing Through Challenging Times!
4. Reducing the time to cash for new products.
When companies industrialize the market concept, and they procure design win opportunities, we tend to see critical components involved with this: a) maintaining relationships of requirements from market analysis through final manufacturing build plan; b) leaders who use consistent lifecycle management of a product development flow; and c) IP management with integrated roadmap portfolio capabilities.
“Firms at times are not able to convert concepts to cash quickly. The process to integrate them has several gaps including innovation lifecycles, conversion of R&D concepts to volume products, and ability to optimize the engineering capacity constraints within their P&Ls.”
Product lifecycle management, portfolio & market analytics, and engineer skills/human resource management help to address these gaps. Portfolio management and roadmap planning process are a must. When done, semiconductor companies will be able to map quickly with the customers and the market insights.
5. Sharpening customer focus through more in-depth and accurate customer insight.
Most firms won’t survive if they are unable to gain rapid adoption of their product offering. From our experience, high performing companies build detailed customer usage-models and insight into end-device markets early in their R&D process.
The challenge many find is that without this baseline of understanding it is difficult to convert concepts into cash once the end-product is delivered to the market.
Many of the insights are available from Point of Sale trends, which can help a semicon firm exist at either an OEM (PC, handset, etc.) or distributor. High performers have enhanced the relationship with their work collaborators and customers to gain access to this data. They also build a “Trusted Advisor” relationship where they build scenarios for each end market to better predict what their end-customer may desire in features or functions.
It is difficult for a semicon firm to know how a product will be used. It is really the beginning of gaining insight into utilization, the consumer, and what usage model should be employed. So a semicon firm should study carefully how things can be used in the market. User behavior is crucial. If companies don’t understand that, they may be missing out.
6. Pursuing alliances to share the cost burden of new product development.
The point here is to make sure that semiconductor companies are taking a strategic view and look at the right places to pursue alliances. There’s a lot of impact in pursuing alliances. When semicon companies do this, they can absolutely share the burdens, but it can impact the operating model.
Other recommendations for the industry
What are the other recommendations that Accenture have for the semiconductor industry going forward?
Grant recommends the industry to focus on achieving high performance business results. Those include sustained leadership in various financial metrics such as return to shareholders, profits, and revenue growth.
“Recognize and adapt to the reality that we are now living in a multi-polar world. This is a world in which a growing number of emerging countries and economies are becoming more financially powerful, competitive and relevant in competing against the traditionally more developed parts of the world such as North America, Asia and Europe. This means there are a multitude of growing business opportunities in these emerging nations for semiconductor companies to capitalize on.
“Proactively invest during a recession rather than pull back investments and just wait until the economy pulls out of this down cycle. History has shown that those companies that invest the most perform better in the years after the market recovers.”
Companies repeating mistakes?
Now, these recessions always have a bad habit of occuring cyclically! Therefore, why do semiconductor (and other) companies tend to repeat those same mistakes again and again?
According to Grant, one reason is they tend to indiscriminately and rapidly cut costs without thinking more strategically and carefully about what costs to cut. “They tend to lay off workers who they need when the market recovers, but they can’t hire them back because those employees have moved on with their careers. These semiconductor companies don’t think hard enough about what employees and assets they will need when the market recovers.”
Layoffs? What about design and development?
Finally, are layoffs the only solution to combat recession? What happens to design and development?
Grant agrees that layoffs are absolutely not the only solution to combat recession. Investing in core competencies is crucial, and spending less time and effort on non-core capabilities is important.
“Employee morale tends to fall within design and development during a recession because they see some of their colleagues lose their jobs and they take on more work. And they lose more control of what work they are assigned to do. And they’re less secure about their job security.
“But, much of this can be alleviated by giving employees a chance to share their ideas and concerns at regularly scheduled Town Hall meetings, to communicate with them regularly and candidly, and to focus them on achieving high performance business results.”