Is a product development schedule in place, and does it specify gross milestones and resources?
This process question examines whether the start-up has a schedule for the project with enough intermediate milestones. Without such a schedule, it is impossible to make a meaningful business plan. People experienced in high-tech ventures know that it is essential for the company to be operating according to a detailed schedule, even though no schedule can be fully validated until the entire team responsible for the project has been hired and brought onboard. An unwillingness to make a detailed schedule at this point is therefore a good early warning indicator that the project will probably be difficult and unpredictable. A start-up can certainly be financed on an open-ended schedule, but this approach can be expected to increase product development spending by at least a factor of 2.
Does the company have a plan for acquiring and operating CAD and CASE tools, computing resources, and its network?
Developing products based on up-to-date technology requires up-to-date engineering tools. Tools represent both a key part of engineering and a large fraction of product development cost. A CAD program for schematic capture or board layout can cost several hundred thousand dollars. A simulator to accelerate the testing of a complex chip may cost half a million dollars. Thus, it is critical for the start-up to prepare a detailed list of all the tools (both computers and the necessary networks) it will require for high-tech hardware and software development. In the early stages, developers often administer their own systems, which may include interfaces with various national and international wide area networks, but as a company grows, the expense of system administrators and network administrators must also be assumed.
Chapters 5 and 6 have presented a picture of high information technology and examined how a new venture uses technology to engineer products in a timely and predictable fashion. At each of the development phases described in Chapter 5, the company must have an adequate technology balance sheet covering the following twelve dimensions:
its technology base; standards; design, quality, and other processes; plan, with schedule and resources; engineering specifications; manufacturing specifications; chief technical officer; team and engineering culture; architecture; technical resources; technology future and operational management.