Product development, especially the design of large complex systems, is a special type of business process. What makes it special is the highly coupled nature of design decisions and the large size of product development teams. It is not unusual to have several hundred multi-disciplinary members taking millions of design decisions over the life of the project. From the Information Technology (IT) perspective, the special nature of design presents a challenge of coordinating the interdependent tasks of the team and integrating them. This paper explores the role of IT, specifically software tools, in improving the product development process through a framework that better represents and captures design knowledge. In order to overcome the limitations of the current implementations, the concept of “Use models” is developed. A use model consists of the methods, tools, and a map of the design process. This map is in the form of a design structure matrix (DSM) that represents tasks and relationship knowledge at a system level. By combining a detailed process view with tools and methods, the Use model creates a better IT representation of the product development process.

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