Andy blog2 Pixsan project  management




Hi there. I thought I would start the first of my Blog sessions selfishly with the topic closest to my own job function.

I look after project managment and resourcing. Given that Pixsan is only small (about 14 engineers) this may not appear initially to be a difficult task to take on. However with embedded engineering nothing can be taken for granted. The development we undertake can involve a number of components with the eco-system of a STB or DTV and we have to manage carefully the different strands.

Let's take a typical twin tuner HD DVR for example. Today's typical advance product deliverable may include the following:

  • True dual record (record two HD channels, watch another)
  • MHEG5 interactivity.
  • Integrated HTML browser.
  • Media Player
  • DLNA
  • Applications.

To support such a project Pixsan will typically be interfacing with the following companies:

Company 1 - The brand, retailer or reseller
Company 2 - The silicon vendor
Company 3-  The OEM
Company 4 - The browser supplier
Company 5 - The standards or compliance organisation
Company 6 - The Device Rights Managment (DRM) supplier
Company 7 - The application company

In fact companies 5 and 7 could indeed be companies 5,7,8,9,10 etc

You get the picture. Such a development is most often called a System Integration or  just "Integration". Most times Pixsan contracts in the role of main Integrator, however often we will play a sub-integration role helping another Integration company to succeed.

All the technologies and the relationships and support that accompany the technologies that go into the Integration come with differing challenges which change over the course of the project. An added complication of course is that the hub or centre of the specific issues and topics may not be controlled by the Integrator. For example, a Compliance Organisation may change, say, the requirements upon the Browser supplier; or the silicon vendor may change the specifications of the SoC on the OEM. In each case the onus is on relationships between the differing companies to communicate with each other to manage the the effect of the changes.

From a project managment perspective, particularly in the role of Integrator, it is important to ensure that I keep across all of the relationships as best I can.

At Pixsan we try to avoid having lots of project meetings because tying up so many companies can cost alot of time (consider that 7 companies in a 1 hour meeting where each company has an average of say 1.5 people present could mean a loss of productivity of a day and half!) We try to manage with two key words; Agility and flexibility whilst maintaining accuracy and quality by having only the best people working on tasks.

Some of the tools we use are:

  • Microsoft project - Much maligned but a great tool for resource and time planning.
  • Bugzilla - For bug tracking.
  • JournyX - For accurate timesheets and resource analysis.
  • Basecamp - For an excellent alternative to email for communication and document management.
  • Skype - For quick and effective low cost calls but also for IMing (Text communication is often much more effective than the spoken word.

And last but not least, some creative down time with the's important to us, and to you. to nurture a great work ethic.

Till next time.