From R&D to post-sales customer service, every group in an organization is critical to a new product’s success. Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) systems can unite all these elements that drive new product development – if used wisely.
But too many organizations run their new product development projects in silos, typically within the confines of marketing and engineering. PPM is used more as a tactical tool to monitor progress, overcome bottlenecks and keep on budget for new product launches. Finance, operations, senior management and other groups are typically left out of the PPM strategy.
In today’s business environment, it is important to maintain a strong focus on research and development which requires a certain investment in technology and resources. It may seem counterproductive, especially if there have been cutbacks or layoffs, but continued funding to R&D is definitely in your company’s best interests.
As project manager, do you have everything in place to make sure your company will succeed in its research and development efforts? Do you have the necessary resources, both human and material? Do you need to hire additional stall or implement leaner processes? Are there guidelines in place to evaluate a project’s probability of success? Are the essential project management tools (people, practices and software) available to track your project and keep tight control of all aspects of it?
Proper R&D project management can help you assess the commercial benefits of a project, which in turn helps your company stay competitive, ensure customer retention and increase your reputation as a project manager with an appreciation for innovation.
Following is how project management can factor in to each of the R&D phases:
During this phase your company will likely evaluate various tools to understand your customers’ current and future needs, whether through demographic or market research or surveys of your existing clients. The main objective is to ascertain where your clients would like improvements to existing products or services or what new products they need and would be likely to purchase. A good project management tool enables you to input prospective project data, gathered through your research, and rank the customer requests according to probability of success.
The development stage is the most costly because it is the phase during which the product earns no revenue. The more costly the development phase, the lesser the overall profit. The longer the development phase, the less market share for the product and shorter product life. It makes sense, then, that reducing development time and cost gets your product or service to the market faster, increases the profit margins and results in quicker ROI.
Project Managers, with the help of higher level staff need to help R&D work cost effectively and use the appropriate tools to increase overall efficiency. The right project management tool, combined with concurrent engineering methods can help. This reduces total development time because resources are assigned to activities before the previous activity is completed. Rather than working sequentially and waiting for information from the previous step, effective project management lets all the teams and team members retrieve and share project information and documents in real time. This will also reduce problems that may arise with quality or with production costs.
This method requires complete commitment from all teams to support the workflow processes and to respect corporate policies and image.
When a project is properly managed, the result is decreased development lead time, improved profitability, greater competitiveness and better control of design and manufacturing costs.
Choosing the Right Project Management Software
With so many project management tools on the market how do you determine which is the right tool for your company?
The right tool needs to be accessible to everyone, not just to R&D, so that all the players can share and retrieve information, view statistical analyses and keep a tight rein on costs. When everyone who needs to be in the loop is included, your company’s R&D projects are less likely to go off track.
The right tool needs to be flexible, scalable, polyvalent and robust. It should provide options that let users get only the information they need, when they need it. It should work with the systems you already have in place – letting you cut costs even further.
Every project management team knows a successful R&D project requires tools that can reduce both costs and new product development time, while enabling faster time-to-market and increased revenue. By helping R&D focus on its core competencies with more efficient project management, the project manager is seen as an enabler of success and a supporter of ongoing innovation.