H1 2016 is Over! Act on H2.

Today’s thought from INSIGHTOVATION® – July 19, 2016

Stay ahead of your business cadence.

Are you still analyzing the first half of 2016 to see where you are vs. the business goals?  If so you are already behind for the year.  That analysis should have been done starting in mid-June using actuals through May and forecast for June.  The official books should be all but closed as a formality with no surprises and business reviews finalized.  You are now 3 weeks into the new quarter and second half of 2016.  Stop looking back.

Executing the plan is the business priority.

Assumptions:
  1. There is a clearly defined strategy and action plan.   Everyone is aligned and focused.
  2. It is still the right plan.  Nothing has changed.
  3. You have the right resources to execute.

Publishing a business/marketing calendar is a helpful way of staying on track.

  1. This calendar outlines a framework of the regular cycles for the business.
  2. It describes the business process and timing vs. the content.
  3. It gives visibility to timing and manages expectations of reporting to business stakeholders.

Whether the calendar is on a shared, electronic platform or an excel spreadsheet matters not. The important characteristics are that it is clearly articulated, accessible, and has organizational alignment.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.12.59 AM

First Step? – Populate a calendar with all known business events for the next 18 months.

Consider a 3-year strategic plan with a rolling 18-month action plan.   Create an 18-month calendar outlining the business/marketing cadence as a framework and allow stakeholders to align their action plans so that the entire team is going forward on the same timing to achieve the plan.

Let me know if you need step-by-step help creating a cross-organizational cadence.

 

Advertisements

15+ Words to Describe Great Product Managers

Writing a resume or job description?
Preparing to interview a product manager candidate or be interviewed for a product manager job?

I was recently asked to identify characteristics of a great product manager.

If functional expertise is a given, then what are the characteristics that take a product manager from good to great?

Here are some of the words I l use to describe the great product managers I have known and with whom I have worked.

authenticauthentic

adjective ~ au·then·tic \ə-ˈthen-tik, ȯ-\
  • : real or genuine : not copied or false

  • : true and accurate

  • : an original

Conformity does not yield innovation.

curiositycurious

adjective ~ cu·ri·ous \ˈkyu̇r-ē-əs\
  • : having a desire to learn or know more about something or someone
    :  marked by desire to investigate and learn
    :  marked by inquisitive interest in others’ concerns

  • : strange, unusual, novel or unexpected

 

fearlessAN-ESSENTIAL-aspect-of-creativity-is-not-being-afraid-to-fail

adjective ~ fear·less \ˈfir-ləs\
  • : not afraid : very brave

  • : not being afraid to fail

inquisitiveQuestion_mark curious

adjective ~ in·quis·i·tive \in-ˈkwi-zə-tiv\
  • : tending to ask questions : having a desire to know or learn more

insightfulinsightful

adjective ~ inˈsītfəl /insītfəl/
  • :having or showing an accurate and deep understanding; perceptive.

intuitive, perceptive, discerning, penetrating, penetrative, astute, percipient,perspicacious, sagacious, wise, judicious, shrewd, sharp, sharp-witted, razor-sharp, keenincisive, acute, imaginative, appreciative, intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive, deep, profound

 

intuitive

intuitive brain

Credit: Pentera PGBuzz

 

adjective ~ in·tu·i·tive \in-ˈtü-ə-tiv, -ˈtyü-\
  • : having the ability to know or understand things without any proof or evidence : having or characterized by intuition

  • : based on or agreeing with what is known or understood without any proof or evidence : known or understood by intuition

  • : agreeing with what seems naturally right

Great product managers have a unique balance of left and right brain capabilities.

 

judicious

judicious decisive

getgoodinstitute.com

adjective ~ ju·di·cious \jü-ˈdi-shəs\
  • : having or showing good judgment

Judiciousness stresses a capacity for reaching wise decisions or just conclusions.

 

practical practical

adjective ~ prac·ti·cal  /praktək(ə)l/
  • : of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

Great product managers are practical, focused on actually doing something, yet I find them to have a quirky silliness and creative bent that sends them in innovative directions hidden from the view of the average mortal.

prudentprudent

adjective pru·dent \ˈprü-dənt\
  • : having or showing careful good judgment

  • : shrewd in the management of practical affairs

  • : marked by circumspection

  • : acting with or showing care and thought for the future.

     sensible, politic, advisable, well advised

 

relentlessextra-mile relentless

adjective ~ re·lent·less  /rəˈlen(t)ləs/

  • :oppressively constant; incessant.
  • :showing or promising no abatement of intensity, strength, or pace

sagacioussagacious

adjective ~ sa·ga·cious \sə-ˈgā-shəs\
  • : having or showing an ability to understand difficult ideas and situations and to make good decisions

 

sageexperience

adjective \ˈsāj\
  • :very wise through reflection, wide experience and great learning

 

sanesane

adjective ~ \ˈsān\
Sane stresses mental soundness, rationality, and levelheadedness

sapient Sapient

adjective ~ |sa·pi·ent|  /sā-pē-ənt/  [sey-pee-uh nt]
  • :wise, or appearing wise especially in the ways of being human

unpretentious

adjective un·pre·ten·tious \-ˈten(t)-shəs\
  • : not having or showing the unpleasant quality of people who want to be regarded as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are : not pretentious

  • :not attempting to impress others with an appearance of greater importance, talent, or culture than is actually possessed.

  • :possessing humility in leadership

unaffectednatural, straightforward, open, honestsincere, frank

 

There are of course many other words to describe what makes these human beings great product managers.  These are some of my favorite.  Please feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

 

6 Steps to End the Fight Club Mentality in Your Portfolio Team

INSIGHTOVATION®

office-fight

Is Everyone Fighting for Resources?

6 Steps to Better Portfolio Management

1. Have a standing cross-organizational portfolio team:

A Portfolio Analysis and Recommendation Team – ‘PART’ with a structure, process, cadence,  measures, metrics and portfolio goals will create an efficient and credible environment for portfolio issues to be managed.  The PART Team must know the overall business strategy and work to deliver the strategy by establishing functional department strategies and product-line strategies.

2. Develop and define product-line strategies:  

With organization and management input, define product-line strategies within the portfolios so they are clear to the organization and the cross-organizational project teams.  Without this critical information the teams will not be aligned on ‘where to play and how to win’ at each point of the functional strategies.  Create leverage for your product lines by developing them with a product-line platform approach.

Here is a link to a white paper discussing the…

View original post 432 more words

Signs your NPD process is stuck in the 1980s

1980s

Your NPD process is stuck in the 80s when…

  1. Your organization still calls it ‘stage-gate’.
  2. Your teams think NPD is about project management.
  3. Your portfolio of projects consists of an Excel spreadsheet.
  4. Projects get into the process and never get killed.
  5. Concepts are generated from random brainstorming or are management pet projects.
  6. Your product line roadmap is a powerpoint that someone from marketing created.

A marketing friend of mine called me last week to complain about the behavior of his executive team during a recent gate meeting.  The gate meeting turned into a senior leadership debate on business and product line strategy.

The senior leadership team declared the stage-gate process broken and wanted to shut everything down to fix it.  wrong way

My friend was frustrated and indicated they didn’t have an innovation problem or even a lack of ideas.  He indicated they knew how to run a project effectively through the development process.  Clearly, NPD was not working though.  What was the problem?

The answer, I explained to my friend,  was that they did not have a stage-gate process problem.  Instead, they had a product line strategy and roadmapping problem.  There was no alignment on product line strategy and no working product line roadmap that guided new products into the pipeline, allowed decisions to be made on product projects, or a process for projects that didn’t meet strategic and risk criteria to be killed.  Without that alignment, gatekeepers and portfolio managers have no framework in which to make decisions.  What a mess!

When everyone knows it’s not working, and no one knows how to get it back on track, “Where do you start?”

Let’s go back and look at some of the components of the new product development (NPD) process.  Phase-gated and stage-gated new product development processes are only subprocesses of a full architecture of NPD and innovation.  If any of these subprocesses are suboptimal then your results will not be as strong as they could be, you are not gaining the benefits,  and the competition may be winning the game.

The full architecture of NPD and innovation links the following processes together:
  1. Business strategy
  2. Product line strategy
  3. Product line roadmapping
  4. Concept generation
  5. Stage gate project management
  6. Lifecycle management
  7. Portfolio management

Let’s start with my friend’s executive declared ‘stage-gate’ problem. Gated processes have been around for decades now.  They started in the 1950s with NASA and have gained momentum  in industry since the 1960s.  Over the past 30 years these processes  have become a mainstream staple of new product development project management.

The stage-gate type process lays out an effective way to manage a single project at a time.

turtle catching-up

The gated process is considered by many practitioners to be mature in its lifecycle.  Because of its mature lifecycle, many companies have come to understand that stage-gate alone is inadequate to achieve strategic new product development and innovation goals.  If your company is stuck at the stage-gate capability level you have some catching up to do.

While the stage-gate type process helps streamline work flow, information flow, and decision flow of single projects, it is portfolio management that allows organizations to manage sets of many projects effectively, especially given the usual constraints of time and money.  When trade-offs need to be made and resources need to allocated, it is portfolio management that optimizes the allocation of human resources, expense dollars, and capital expense, to achieve the product line and business strategy.  If your portfolio management still consists of rolling up a list of projects into a view and report-out of all projects, and stops there, your company may need to take portfolio management, portfolio analysis, scenario building, and portfolio recommendations for management decision, to the next level.  

Using portfolio management work flow and information flow to make strategic portfolio decisions is critical to maximizing your creation of value and conversion of products to cash flow.  

How-to-increase-conversion-rate-by-effective-landing-pageCould  your company be behind in utilizing these best practices?  If so, you may be missing the point of portfolio management, and not capturing the maximum value of an optimized portfolio.

In order to make portfolio recommendations, portfolio managers, analysts, and review teams need to have a framework from which to reference the gaps in the product line and business strategy.  This is what product line roadmapping provides.

house_of_cards

However, if the product line roadmap is simply a powerpoint created by someone from marketing, without cross organizational input and alignment, then the framework is a house of cards that has not been embedded into the organization and is not understood by the senior leadership team.

In addition, without the framework of the product line strategy and product line roadmaps, concept generation is random and not targeted to the gaps in your strategic plan and you increase the risk of missing your goals.

Roadmapping links the front end, stage-gate, and the portfolio to product line strategy to carry out the execution of business strategy for the purpose of converting products to cash flow.

My marketing friend asked if they really had to shut everything down to fix the process.  The answer is NO.  Companies build skills in these areas in parallel and one level of capability at a time.  If a company conducted the implementation of each of these subprocesses sequentially it would take decades to gain the benefits.  This frustrated marketer was relieved.  I gave him an outline of areas on which to focus to help move his organization to the next level.

How to start:

  1. Everyone needs to be involved.  Form a cross functional and cross organizational team to assess capabilities.
  2. Conduct work in parallel.  Build capabilities in each sub process in of the full architecture of NPD one level at a time.
  3. Keep it simple.  Don’t burden the organization with unnecessary steps.

Are you ready to take your NPD process out of the 80s and use the current best practices to create maximum value for your company?  What are you waiting for?  Let’s get going!

How to make your CEO a believer in NPD and Innovation!

whizard-1My friend Mark Mitchell, of Whizard Strategy recently wrote a blog post on

‘How to make your CEO a fan of marketing’

and shed light on the number of CEO’s who mistrust their CMOs.  He quoted John Wanamaker who famously said, “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.”  … and added “this pretty much sums up how CEO’s and CFO’s think about marketing”.  

Mark Mitchell called out an article on that supports how 70% of CEO’s don’t trust their Chief Marketing Officers.  Read the article Mark cites at Marketing Week Article.

maureen-carlson

This reminded me of another article I recently read on new product development and innovation, based on a recently released benchmark survey, that points to some significant improvements needed in the area of NPD and innovation processes for the majority of companies.   The executive management in charge of these companies must feel exactly the same about the quality and maturity of their new product development and innovation people, process, tools and investment.


Read this article by 
 at InnovationManagement.se for yourself and register for the full report.

Findings from the Fourth Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Survey

NPD and innovation managers, who are we kidding?  We have to get faster, more efficient and have more strategic impact to gain the needed resources.

office-fightMy own recent blog discussed the portfolio team feeling like a fight club.  Everyone is fighting for resources.  The CEO or executive one level up has to become the referee and has to choose how to best invest the company’s money to achieve the portfolio growth goals.  Teams want more resources, people, time, tools, capital and expenses.   Yet we deal in a economy where there are constraints on most or all of these.  As Mark states:

The IT person wants new software that he is sure will improve the bottom line.  The operations people want to invest in the plants to improve efficiency.  Sales management wants to add more salesmen.  HR wants to invest in training.  And then there is marketing…

I am an NPDP certified new product development professional so I have one more to add…

…and then there is new product development and innovation.  These NPD requests for resources go deep and are cross organizational.  Whose budget is it anyway?  Many departments make convincing cases for their departmental needs however when it is cross organizational and a strategic initiative, the stakes, risks and rewards are higher and more complex.  How do decisions get made?  Your CEO needs your help here.

Here’s how to make your CEO a believer in spending on people, processes and tools for new product development and innovation.

1.   Stop using meaningless terms, like innovation!  This seems contradictory.  The reason to stop using the term innovation is that it is an overused buzzword, means something different to everyone in the room, creates debate and discourse and has little discrete value without a lot more information that is rarely provided at the time the term is being tossed about the room.  Stay crystallized in your message to the CEO.  Talk about business results and how to get there.  Innovation is not the end game.  Innovation happens by the use of a group of sub-processes that produce business results.

The benchmark study, that Ms. Carlson cites, reports that a major pain point to these processes is speed (56%).  Other to pain points include resource allocation to the wrong products through missing VOC data or not cutting low impact projects in favor of supporting those with higher impact (52%), and product portfolios that are not aligned well enough with company strategies and objectives resulting in ineffective decision-making (53%).

2. Get rid of the silos and align around product line strategies.  Create a cross organizational team to define product line strategies.  Listen to all the functional roles involved, internal and external to confirm strategic thinking.   Ask customers and consumers what their biggest challenges are.  Be specific.  Get your organization outside of the building to see the problems customer and consumers face directly, including the CEO.  Learn what the competition is doing.

3.  risk fail roadmapCreate product line roadmaps.  Once you have this knowledge embedded in the team, you are in a position to create product line road maps that provide targets for your product development.   You have a way to show the CEO where you are going, why, and how it will achieve the business strategy and growth plans.  You can demonstrate the problem and the solution.  

4.  Involve the executive management in the process. When you involve the CEO and executive management in the process at the right place and time you will find yourself doing more than asking for more money.  You become an advisor and informed expert who can recommend the optimal path to achieve the strategic goal.

5. Make everything measurable and simple.  The benchmark study indicated the lack of hard data provided to CEOs to make smart strategic decisions.   Ms. Carlson reported on data:

…more than 80% of companies are supporting decision making with poor and/or hard to access data. This makes it difficult for leaders to make the tough decisions, such as what new initiatives to fund and which ones to kill.

Mr Mitchell stated that smart CEOs know that the data is poor and expect some bullshit when functions try to gain resources for their projects.  Gone are the days..

“We have to do it” or “We’ve always done it.”  Everything should have a measurable outcome.

6. Don’t underestimate cultural inertia and short term focus.  Ms. Carlson reports..

More than 70% reported that their leadership is averse to risk and equates killing products with failure. In fact, overall risk aversion is growing steadily. Too few are rewarded for taking calculated risks, which is the bedrock of innovation.

Convert your CEO to be a believer in product development not a referee of squabbling siblings. Take some of these steps today and behave your way into a leadership position by  improving your organization’s cross organizational performance instead of an attitude of fighting for an undeserved entitlement from a suspicious parent.

For more on the subject of product line strategies and roadmaps, see http://www.adept-plm.com.

 

6 Steps to End the Fight Club Mentality in Your Portfolio Team

office-fight

Is Everyone Fighting for Resources?

6 Steps to Better Portfolio Management

1. Have a standing cross-organizational portfolio team:

A Portfolio Analysis and Recommendation Team – ‘PART’ with a structure, process, cadence,  measures, metrics and portfolio goals will create an efficient and credible environment for portfolio issues to be managed.  The PART Team must know the overall business strategy and work to deliver the strategy by establishing functional department strategies and product-line strategies.

2. Develop and define product-line strategies:  

With organization and management input, define product-line strategies within the portfolios so they are clear to the organization and the cross-organizational project teams.  Without this critical information the teams will not be aligned on ‘where to play and how to win’ at each point of the functional strategies.  Create leverage for your product lines by developing them with a product-line platform approach.

Here is a link to a white paper discussing the value and benefit of product-line strategies, written by Paul O’Connor of The Adept Group.

The PART (portfolio team) analyzes portfolio scenarios based on cross-organizational data.  It optimizes and rationalizes the opportunities.  The  PART then makes portfolio recommendations on execution paths forward to business decision makers.

bubble chart

3. Create product line roadmaps:

Using the product-line strategies, and targets for innovation and development, create and align around product-line roadmaps that create a framework of ‘critical-to-roadmap’, events, milestones, technology development or procurement, to track portfolio execution, metrics, and progress.  If you need some help on how to create smart effective product line strategies and product-line roadmaps, there are many workshops, white papers, webinars, and conferences.

4. Optimize the portfolio:

Collect the right data to create and analyze portfolio scenarios, identify gaps, and make recommendations to decision makers on resource allocation, based on data not emotion.
Try software support like  Sopheon Accolade,  Sopheon circlefor straightforward management and visual graphing of portfolio scenarios from innovation planning, targeted idea generation and development, process and project management, through portfolio optimization.  It is an easy-to-use, efficient software and a robust way to compare the options.

5.  Allocate resources:

Track and allocate resources by project and by total portfolio. Make decisions one level above where the resources are shared, so that each decision does not turn into a boxing match.  Software can identify resource constraints and help to prioritize the reallocation of resources to those critical-to-strategy products and projects.

6. Analyze the risk:

Analyze the risk to your projects and assess the risk of your total portfolio so that you can add resources, kill, hold, speed up slow, down and add more projects to meet the goals the business has set.  RiskAssessor™ SoftwareFind a smart and practical way to assess project and portfolio risk.

If your portfolio team is not recommending some projects slow down, while others get killed, or be replaced by projects with more impact, then you may not have a strategy or critical roadmap activities identified.

If your team doesn’t have a framework such as product-line strategies and product-line roadmaps then it will not be able to optimize the allocation of resources and recommend the most strategic and impactful path forward for the development effort.  You will be slower and less efficient than you could be otherwise,  or worse slower and less efficient than the competition!

roadmap picture


Stop wasting time and energy fighting for resources and get behind a common roadmap and execution plan.  
Use these six steps to create a data-based approach to the management of your product portfolio, new product development and innovation.

Your comments are welcome at INSIGHTOVATION.COM

Innovators! You want bigger, better, bubbles!

Product and innovation managers!

You are falling short of your goals, yet you are effectively and efficiently conducting your gated projects and you are analyzing and optimizing your portfolio scenarios. Your problem may not be your skill and capability level at these processes but instead, after you have mastered the gated project and portfolio subprocesses, you need BIGGER, BETTER, BUBBLES to feed the front end and fill your portfolio pipeline.biggerbetterbubbles

Focus on the front end.

The front end of the full architecture of NPDI (new product development and innovation) is the process where concepts for development are generated.  Many call this ‘concept generation.’

Your problem may not be portfolio management.  Your problem may be the front end concept generation process.  In addition, your concept generation process may not be linked to your product line strategy and product line roadmap.

Bubble charts

But let’s take a step back.  Are you a bubble charter?  Let’s explain the purpose of a bubble chart (statisticians, mathematicians and academics please feel free to contribute).  Bubble carts are a staple for partitioners of new product development and portfolio management.  The charts show the opportunities for new products and services in terms of revenue, volume, margin etc. compared to other opportunities for the purpose of investment of resources over time. The charts compare the metrics of opportunities in visuals and display them in circles or bubbles.  The bubbles are sized based on any number of metrics.  Many companies draw the size of the bubbles based on volume, i.e., $ volume and physical volume moved or processed through the operations or plants.

Making_big_bubbles_DSC_2521

As a product manager or a portfolio manager you want BIGGER, BETTER, BUBBLES, i.e., bigger better opportunities for development.

Bubble charts compared to one another over time show the progress of projects through the development process.  Projects move through stages and are eventually launched to the market. So bubbles move over time.  Bubbles move in the intended direction and sometimes the move in the wrong direction.  Portfolio and project managers manage these bubbles (projects) to keep them on track and moving in the right direction.  The bubble charts can give you a better visual than a table of numbers.

The criteria for portfolio management and these charts are pretty clear and usually focuses on converting products and services to cash and creating value for the organization.  The bigger the opportunity,  the lower the risk, the higher the opportunity to claim intellectually property, the better the strategic fit, all come together to create these bigger,  better,  bubbles.

First steps for corporations are to be efficient and effective at the gated project processes, portfolio management processes, and resource allocation.  Once these portfolio processes and scenarios are refined, focused and embedded within your organization, your quest for bigger, better bubbles are the next level of skill to achieve and gain benefits from the full architecture of the new product development and innovation (NPDI).

portview

portview visual graphFront End of New Product Development and Innovation

Alert!   It is difficult to create targets for innovation or a framework within to develop innovative concepts that have strategic impact without a product line strategy and  a product line roadmap.

Four steps to better concept generation through using product line strategy and product line roadmaps.

  1. Develop your product line strategy and create a roadmap that connects your technology building blocks to your target market segments.
  2. Map out the product line over time (3 – 5  years) based on development cycles.
  3. Diagnose critical gaps.
  4. Target your concept generation efforts based on the product line gaps for achieving business strategy, and product line strategy.

Within each of these four steps there are many work elements, cross functional inputs and work steps.  However, the reward and benefits from the work are better targets for your front end process for NPDI activities and targets for innovation.  This is key to delivering BIGGER, BETTER, BUBBLES.

Learn more about this at adept-plm.com.

Is your brand marketing thought up or thought through?

Whether channel, brand or product marketing, the components must all work together. Channelinstincts nails many of the fundumentals with a smart and efficient hammer.

Channel Instincts - A Marketing Blog By Greg Bonsib

Brand idea chartThe key difference between being “thought up and thought through” is to be:

  1. Driven by insights
  2. Obsessed with creativity and innovation
  3. Built on the foundation of a brand position
  4. Varying your message and method by stakeholder
  5. Focused on building long-term relationships

1.  Driven by insights

The first step to transforming your communications is to understand everything there is to know about your key consumer.  What is the demographic, mindset or other key traits that will help you understand your core consumer better?

And don’t assume that you can identify these key insights by just sitting in the office and sifting through point of sale data or old research.  Get out on store walks.

Go to every store, in multiple regions that carries your category.  Go in with an open mind and look at other categories besides your own.  Are there new, unique or interesting display or POP ideas?  How about packaging…

View original post 568 more words

When was the last time you checked your mix of project types?

project managerWhy identify your project types?

Recognition that most organizations have a mix of different types of projects being worked on by product managers, R&D, engineering, marketing etc., is important to an organization’s productivity.   Each project has a different role, scope and goal for the organization (although in many poorly managed portfolios it is sometimes unclear to see how some of them fit.)   Each project requires different levels of staffing, resources and is on a different timeline.  It is because of these differences that one should be aware of typical issues and requirements associated with managing each project type.

Do you know the mix of your project types?

My goal in this article is to provide a simple tool for mapping out your project types.  To facilitate this discussion I pulled out a great little tool.   It is a simple 2×2.  In fact, a simple 2×2 is one of the best first steps for so many processes.  This 2×2 will help you define the primary types of your development projects.  It is easy to do and does not take long.  It is also discussed in greater detail in the classic book by Wheelwright and Clark,  Revolutionizing Product Development, © 1992.

2x2 types of projectsLet’s begin.  A number of different dimensions could be used to classify your organization’s projects; however a particularly useful way to characterize projects is to use the dimensions of the “extent of change” the project represents.  Consider the types of change that projects typically involve.  One type of change is the extent of the product change.  Another is the extent of the process change.  Plot your projects on this type of grid to get a better understanding of the mix of project types.  You can use the size of the bubble to communicate any number of attributes, such as net present value (NPV), capital expense, annualized sales or income etc.

Once you have a plot of the mix of projects and where they are on a scale of change to current products and processes,  they can be classified into three types.  The three types of projects are derivatives, platform changes and radical breakthroughs.  Classification of project types in this way may be important to because it clarifies thinking, planning, staffing, and providing a framework to aggregate projects into an overall plan since each project will need a different level of staffing and resource commitment.  The project types also help point to the appropriate product and process maps that will be helpful to guide progress over time.

types of projects 2What are the benefits of classifying projects by type? 

Knowing the difference between a platform change and a product derivative helps plan for the differences in front end planning required for a platform change.  In a platform project there is a bundling of a number of improvements into a new system to provide the solution across a range of users or customer groups.  In contrast, the derivative project may be in response to targeted requirements from a single subset of users or customers.  By nature, the platform project represents more change and requires more activity, creativity, insight and development at the front end to be sure that the platform actually meets the critical to quality attributes and customer requirements across the board.

It is also recognized that it is more challenging to converge on a solution for a platform project and the final product specs may be more complex that the previous solution.  In a derivative project many of the issues have been already closed or are limited by earlier platform decisions.  In addition, platform projects require deeper cross-functional involvement.   Another consideration is that projects initiated to obtain radical breakthroughs often have a much longer period of upfront investment in research and development, and are much further out on the horizon.  Skills and tools in advanced development are often required for radical innovation and breakthroughs, and the team assigned is often a separate part of the organization from those managing the current products and platforms.

In order to allocate resources and provide sustainable growth, an organization needs to understand the mix of projects as it relates to product lifecycles and industry maturity.  The timing of product derivatives, platform introductions and innovative breakthroughs are all important to the long term health of the business.  It is also important to know the target mix of projects for executing a strategic plan within a preset period of time (usually is 3 -5 years for most organizations.)  Note that radical breakthroughs may take as long as, or longer than, 10 years to commercialize. Though many of these strategic decisions are complex and rely heavily on data, skills, and tools used by a qualified team of professionals leading the organization, the complexity can be broken down into easy-to-understand components and built back up into a successful aggregate plan.

Using a simple tool such as a plot of your project types is a simple way to start on the road to managing a portfolio of products and projects.

Image credit: smartrecruiters.com, graphics credits: insightovation.com, resources: Wheelwright & Clark’s Revolutionizing Product Development