Design Structure Matrix: Segregation Technique for large systems
A Design Structure Matrix (DSM) is the matrix representation of a large system or project with different activities/subsystems, information exchange and dependency as matrix elements.
A DSM is supposed to be a technique to draw an easily understandable layout of a large system. DSM shows the sub-systems and their dependencies and other related information in a tabular structure for a simpler representation. Core deployment of such techniques takes initiated in industries accomplishing complex systems or projects like automotives, semi-conductors, telecom etc. After analyzing the effectiveness and simplicity of DSM, software development companies also started using DSM for project planning and management.
However, various other techniques and models like PERT, Gantt and CPM already exists as project management tools but these methodologies are more work-flow oriented. These traditional methods only allow the sequencing and parallelization of resources and other business processes, but do not address the problems which could be incurred. Inter-dependency of processes and their impact on other processes could not be drawn from those traditional approaches. On the other hand, DSMs are information-oriented and since the behavior of systems largely depends on the information flow within different sub-systems, it sounds a more feasible tool for managing complex projects. DSM provides a great advantage because of its:
- Representation of complex system / project in much simple and concise manner.
- Wide acceptance to critical analysis for clustering, sequencing and implication of processes.
Since each industry type has different dynamics related to the processes they execute and their priority level, there should be a different DSM-based method for each. DSMs cannot be standardized for every industry; rather DSMs need to be adapted according to the element types and relationship between them which prevail in system. Common classification of DSM is explained further:
- Component based DSM, which is more of a product-oriented matrix, displays the relationship between different components of the project or system.
- Team based DSM, which is more workforce-oriented. Here analysis and design is based on the information flow between different organizational entities. Individual and groups and their participation in a project are the matrix elements, which are analyzed.
- Activity-based / Task-based DSM is more process-oriented one. It provides the analysis of input/output of different activities and their dependencies and relationships. This type is used for process sequencing, scheduling, iteration management etc.
- Parameter-based DSM designs the relationship at parameter level for analysis. Parameter level could be defined as the low-level activity sequencing and process construction.
DSM is a systematically arranged approach for managing complex project/system over classical methods of project planning and management. It provides a more visually powerful means for capturing, communicating and organizing engineering activities and thus, facilitates the proper project management.