It's not always about time to market - Embedded.com

It’s not always about time to market

It's really about time to money.

Most marketers and the bean counters behind them scream to the engineers and software developers that it's all about “time to market. The faster we can get this product to market, the faster we can start making money!”

That may be true, but what's really important is “time to money. How soon can I start making money from this product that's in development?”

What stirred this thought was an article I came across a short time ago whereby Airbus announced that its schedule for delivering its super-jumbo A380 jet was being delayed. With a project as large as a super-jumbo jet, I wasn't really surprised by this announcement. But this is the second time the project has been pushed back, for a total delay of 22 months. Yikes! For its efforts, Airbus took a huge financial hit for its tardiness.

What would happen to your project (and your job) if a 22-month delay was incurred? Can you imagine having to break that news to your boss? It likely wouldn't be a pretty scene.

Airbus claims that its delay is due to glitches in the installation of wiring. The company says that the plane requires hundreds of miles of wires, which includes both mission-critical systems as well as non-mission-critical systems, such as the entertainment modules embedded into the seats.

Going back to my original thought, being first to market is sometimes a good thing, but not always. Understanding the window of opportunity is what's really the key. There are more than enough examples of products that were “before their time.” These products were rushed out the door, only to find that consumers weren't ready for them. Or in some cases, if a slight tweak was made before going into production, the product would've been a huge success. A little bit of market research can go a long way in these cases.

On the same note, rushing a product to market, just to be first, can have disastrous results. Having to recall a faulty product can sink a small company or result in a black eye for a large one.

One plausible definition I came across for time to money is “the time it takes to deliver a product into the marketplace and achieve sustainable positive economic returns to its maker.”

The bottom line is, make sure the market is ready for your product, capitalize as soon as possible, and sustain that market for as long as possible. Too soon can be as bad as too late.

Richard Nass is editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design magazine. He can be reached at .

Reader Response


If Airbus had researched the Max Distance that Ethernet will go, vs. the SIZE of their”Creation” up front, they would not be in that mess!

-Bill Murray
San Antonio, TX


This article parallels a talk I heard from Susan Kunz of Solidware. Her Software Development Times article on this same subject is at www.solidw.com/docs/SDTimesArticle_081506.pdf

-Mark Bereit
Director of Product Development
IRIS Technologies, Inc.
Greensburg, PA


Yes, yes, time to money is very important. Without such a metric all we would be doing is getting a bunch of broken stuff out there! Well, let me re-clarifiy that, I meant better than marginally working stuff. eh…. I guess I better not qualify that anymore.

I believe one of the most important things to do is to make sure your design can hit the following:

  • decent features for reasonable price
  • does not give your test engineering dept extreme nausea and headaches
  • well received by manufacturing

Well… that last one is a stretch. A friend of mine, (ex-Sun employee, now very wealthy), tells me that the most important metric is time-to-volume. In other words: How can one deploy a technology, or widget that can be made reliably and work well, that lots of people want the fastest with the mostest in mind? Our military strategists call this 'force of numbers'. This concept seems to work well in the high-tech gadget-related businesses also.

-Ken Wada
Sr Embedded Systems Consultant
Aurium Technologies Inc
San Jose, CA


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