Matt Murphy, CEO of U.S. chipmaker Marvell Technology, predicted in October that the semiconductor shortage extend to 2022 and beyond. The shortage is already having a huge impact across the world, with German automaker Opel announcing the hiatus of some of its operations until the beginning of next year.
And it’s far from an isolated incident – the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders recently revealed that the number of new cars registered in the UK in September was lowest since 1998. Across the world, automakers are struggling with semiconductor shortages, unable to build and sell enough cars to meet demand.
But the impact is even wider. After experiencing an increase in demand during the pandemic, consumer electronics are also starting to be affected by the semiconductor shortage, with research suggesting that smartphone production will be hit harder than initially expected. Microsoft’s executive vice president of games, Phil Spencer, has predicted that Xbox and PlayStation game consoles will continue to be scarce next year.
This is further demonstrated in the research we recently undertook at The Qt Company with Forrester, which examined the challenges facing the global manufacturing industry. A surprising 80% of the organizations we spoke to are currently struggling to produce digital products and services, and 62% attributed this to delays in the supply of semiconductors.
No quick fix
Until 2020, the demand for digital products and services grew at an unprecedented rate, and this demand has not yet weakened. The study, which we undertook in the first half of 2021, further found that 82% of organizations said they needed to quickly introduce new smart or connected products and services in order to maintain or increase their market position. . For nearly eight in 10 organizations (79%), that means focusing their attention on accelerating their software R&D lifecycle.
As speed remains paramount for businesses, delays in semiconductor delivery and software development cycles pose significant challenges. For many, these delays last for several months. And let’s not forget that sitting firmly on the challenges of firmware is the ubiquitous specter of skills shortage of developers.
While there are no quick fixes to talent and semiconductor shortages, companies can make changes that can have immediate and beneficial impact. And at the heart are the designers and developers who create and deliver the products and services that rely on semiconductors and embedded devices.
Challenge the development process
Companies need to rethink the way they work in order to make rapid and effective improvements now to avoid falling into a crisis. When looking at the product lifecycle, most companies have a very siled approach to design and development, not just in terms of how teams interact – or, in most cases, don’t. not – at the start of a project, but also when considering the software and tools they use.
This leads directly to one of the main challenges of fast and efficient mobile app development: feedback loops that are too complex for developers and design. There is often a mismatch between developers responsible for creating digital products and designers who are more concerned with things like user experience and user interface.
The two work in separate silos when they should work in tandem. Enabling collaboration between developers and designers is key to speeding up this process and making up some of the lost ground caused by the chip shortage.
Unifying development and design tools and practices can turn disruptive design iterations into contributions to the development process and break the cycle of laborious feedback loops, helping brands get their products to market much faster.
Unifying design and development as “DevDes” – the same way we think of software development with DevOps – means silos are broken, workloads are lightened, and delivery is simplified.
Cross-platform frameworks and tools are essential to mitigate the effects of these market challenges, and digital product decision-makers will need to remain flexible and use what can be sourced whenever possible. For example, investing in flexible software tools and platforms that support a wide variety of silicon can reduce the impact of supply chain shortages.
But that’s not the only advantage. Beyond the semiconductor shortage, product teams are often tasked with rapidly developing and deploying products that can be used across multiple devices while providing the end user with a seamless native experience. Again, breaking down silos and taking a DevDes approach with cross-platform frameworks can speed up the process while still allowing the team to work in their native environment.
While we are all happy to step out of the eye of the pandemic and focus on a more sustainable future, the lessons we have learned over the past 20 months cannot and should not be forgotten.
While we’re unlikely to see such a sudden surge in demand for devices as we have, we’re likely to see spikes again. And the expectations of consumers and businesses for faster delivery of better quality products – and a seamless experience on a growing number of devices – is certainly a trend that will continue.
Developer burnout has been widely talked about, and the pressure to deliver more and faster without providing the necessary support is unsustainable. As we continue to train more developers to address the skills shortage, enabling them to work in a truly integrated fashion with other parts of the product teams will be essential.
The semiconductor shortage is going to cause disruption for some time to come, so it’s up to companies now to consider what steps they can take in their existing processes, which will not only help them get through this difficult time, but will set them up as future-proof. And it starts with the people and processes at the heart of the development cycle.