Successful new product development is not easy – you must blend creativity, research, ideas, problem solving – with realistic project management and business planning. So how do you make all this happen?
Innovation is a complex process. It requires a good idea, that gains traction, support and business investment. That must then be followed by a hard slog of development work, more creativity, more investment – time, money, skills, equipment, collaboration – and good judgement. If all that goes well, you might just have a product/service/app that has the potential to be commercialised. And that means marketing, a launch plan, some more creativity (commercial), segmentation, targeting, delivery, messaging, legal approvals, health and safety and a plethora of other commercial realities. And then, there are the financials, achieving the right level of return – pricing, channels, volume, planning, executing – in order to repay all the work that has been invested, and more. More, not just by a little bit, but by an amount exceeding the cost of capital of doing all the work to get the idea to launch.
So, the message is clear – it’s a tough job. Successful new product development is not easy. If that’s your job, you have both the excitement and the difficulty of the challenge. The challenge you have, is to blend creativity – research, ideas, problem solving – with realistic project management and business planning.
In a large company, it’s hard for you to muster all of the resources – skills, investment and commitment – to bring an idea to market. And more importantly in a form that will be profitable, sustainable, and in line with the corporate goals. Cross functional working is essential, a blend of skills, and capabilities, to cover all the bases.
If you are the originator of a great idea – a potential blockbuster – how do you make all of this happen? If you are a project manager, how do you deliver?
The Methodology of Innovation
Some of you will say – innovation is creative, it’s not a place for methodology. Others will say, it’s an essential business lever to create competitive advantage in a structured and highly disciplined way that generates a good financial return. Both perspectives are absolutely correct. And many others – sustainability, customer focus, legal, risk management. Yes, that’s the need for cross functional management.
To manage innovation successfully on a single project/idea is a tough job. To manage it repeatedly, on an industrial scale is mind-blowing. Doing one project “right” is massively complex. Doing 5,000 every year is a whole new world. This is what Enterprise Innovation Management is all about.
Idea to Launch – The central theme
Getting the best ideas to market, quickly and profitably. Repeatedly. Successfully. And having the means to do it over and over again.
This means process, and it requires a balanced approach of creative drive and commercial wisdom and control.
Classic stage and gate type methodologies are often perceived as trying to “control” execution and delivery. The creative types among you will be uncomfortable with that perspective. The reality is that the process requires a careful balance – the right level of touch – managing creative new development to be financially viable. A more constructive view of Stage Gate methodologies is to see then as a means of giving the best ideas the resources they need and deserve.
As a project manager, it is an absolute godsend if the corporate environment has a culture and a process to progress good ideas. The flipside is that the same corporate environment must also be saying no to the bad ideas, and also to those where it’s just not quite the right timing or approach.
Governance – Control or Enablement?
The usual view of governance is that of control. Checking, validating, sticking to the rules. A complimentary view – is that it is also about the corporation having the means to put weight behind something that is really good. When a great idea comes along, a strong governance process can ensure it gets progressed and supported. And therein lies the art and the science of crafting the right form of process methodology to bring new ideas to market.
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