What's the optimal team size for a given IC design project? It's a question I hear often from engineering managers and senior executives. What they're actually asking is whether they're over-staffing projects and therefore wasting resources. Implicitly, they're also asking "what's the fewest number of engineers I can put on a given project and still finish on time?" They're important questions directly impacting R&D ROI.
Projects demand a threshold number of engineers to meet schedule targets. Yet, there's a point at which adding resources yields little, if any, additional development throughput—
the exception is when a project desperately needs a particular kind of expertise or specialist. Although most R&D organizations lack the infrastructure to reliably quantify the number of engineers a project needs (which is why many miss schedule), managers instinctively know there is a point of diminishing return. Additional staffing increases overhead, including communication, coordination and consensus-building. That bleeds development time, lowering average productivity among team members. Each additional resource reduces team productivity—throughput increases, but the issue is by how much?
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