Advent of Program Management in ASIC implementation

ASICs started getting complex. Teams got globally dispersed. This was now no longer restricted to the foundries or the chip backend operations but also to the design team. Add to that a customer sitting in another location. To get a synergy across these islands of expertise for a FTSS moved Program Management role to a necessity. A necessity highlighted by the spiraling cost of design re-spins and exacerbated by the fragmented and transient market requirements.

From my experience, here are a few enablers for successful program implementation:
- Pro-active involvement right from the beginning i.e. from RFQ evaluation.
- Clear formulation of the specs mutually agreed and signed by both vendor and client. In this transient market, modifications are inevitable. However time spent in getting the basic set right is worthwhile.
- A well defined program schedule with clear allocation of resources and checklists
and it’s effective implementation. There are many software packages in the market; however keep in mind that a tool is as good as it’s implementation
- Effective communication
In my experience, lack of effective communication has been a major source of delays and issues cropping up in the program. Technical issues and logistic problems may be sorted out with a lesser impact. And it’s not just a language difference. Cultural and personality issues are not insignificant here. Effective documentation, a good rapport, increased presence, periodic meetings & regular updates, conference calls followed up by a written summary are a few enablers here.
- Anticipate and pre-empt issues and effective workarounds/solutions for problems
A good grasp of the complete ASIC supply chain provides an excellent leverage here. A good Program Manager can foresee the implications of decisions taken in a particular program phase, e.g. design on another phase e.g. packaging, on the ASIC program; a fact which may be lost on an engineer sitting in his island of expertise.

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