Question #2. Describe how you generate the first product brief and what departments work on it in sequence. Who determines the feature set? Is there any consideration yet for an eventual price? If not, at what stage does that intrude? How do the marketing, industrial design, circuit creation, PCB layout, physical optimization, software writing etc. departments work together? How many meetings does it entail and how does the work flow operate?

The workflow and methodology are complex but you can think of Lean Manufacturing meets Agile Project management. We follow the principles of Lean Manufacturing for production and prototyping and adopt Agile practices to chart and track projects. At the moment, Gold Note counts 30 employees excluding freelancers and contractors. One of the advantages of being an SME is that we are allowed a certain degree of flexibility so our teams don't have to invest too much of their time into reports and Gantt charts. That makes the agile methodology perfect for us.

The product brief is always the result of multiple teams interacting from R&D to Service, from Marketing to Sales. Our structure makes it easy for ideas to flow from the teams to the C-suite. Our CEO and founder Maurizio Aterini not only guides the company with his vision but is also the converging point for all the information gathered by the teams. We hold regular meetings to discuss product strategy, share insights and analyze customer feedback. In the case of the IS-10, two of the factors driving product development are completing the 10 Line and designing a product that features new solutions.

The initial brief is generated in a meeting led by the C-suite with both the CEO and General Manager. It sees R&D, Sales and Product & Marketing teams contribute to define the first draft of the Scope Statement. This document is key for the success of the project and will be continuously revised, going from a high-level overview of the product to a detailed description that encompasses technical specifications and drawings. At this stage the Product & Marketing team presents market insights, R&D advises on the technology and know-how deemed necessary to develop the feature set and Sales shares the feedback of the sales network that could be of help to make informed decisions.

With the Scope Statement drafted, we move into the feasibility study. R&D evaluates the project, researches if the necessary technology is available or whether additional resources are needed but also estimates a project budget and duration. The data is then shared with Product & Marketing to model the project timeline, the impact it will have on the market and the target production cost and price. Since we embrace the agile method, the developing information is weekly discussed with the C-suite until the moment when all details have been fleshed out and the project is either approved or cancelled. Project IS-10 is currently undergoing the final stage of the feasibility study. The main challenge is the compact chassis (20cm wide, 8cm high and less than 30cm deep) which should host the network board, analogue board with DAC and MCU, volume control for the speakers/headphones, a wide selection of analogue/digital inputs, the PSU (shielded to minimize EMI/RMI) and the integrated amplifier whose heat must be extracted (another challenge to overcome when designing compact units). Soon the C-suite will decide whether it becomes a real product. 

If the project is approved, the Scope Statement will get updated and a project charter (usually a Gantt) created, effectively assigning tasks and deadlines to all teams involved as well as identifying a project leader who will supervise the operations. From this moment on, the project runs on tracks. That's easier for us because hardware and firmware are both developed in-house. They move at the same pace hand in hand to complete the prototype. The most exciting moment? Turning on the prototype and seeing it come alive!