Practical Tools for Project Portfolio Management

Portfolio2For any size business that undertakes multiple simultaneous projects, the ability to manage the project portfolio is a constant struggle (1).  In particular, the portfolio over time tends to move to a higher state of disorder akin to the concept of entropy (2). Think about what happens at most companies, large and small: over time, more projects get started before existing projects are complete. Engineers are expected to work on not just one or two projects, which is ideal, but now must multi-task across multiple projects. On top of that, important customers demand new software features or enhancements to existing products, further diluting the focus on current projects. Statements like “every project seems to be late, never early”, “we always underestimate project cycle time” and “we constantly pull team members from a project to fix high priority customer requests” are common, especially in small to mid-sized firms. There are simply too many projects for too few resources, and the system grinds to halt.  Continue reading

Assessing Disorder in a New Product Development (NPD) Process

order-chaosThose responsible for managing innovation and the new product development (NPD) process face some universal problems. Statements like “every project seems to be late, never early”, “we always underestimate the project cycle time” and “we constantly pull team members from a project to fix high priority customer requests”, are common. These frustrations are manifestations of process and organizational problems that left unaddressed, continue to hinder a company’s ability to develop new products in a timely manner. The problems do not go away and in fact, over time, the negative impact expands. This article addresses some key reasons, in my experience, for an NPD process to move into a higher state of disorder and how to address the root causes. Continue reading

The Role of Product Definition in Innovation Success-Part II

A key determinate of innovation success is a robust process for choosing and defining new products. This is part of the “fuzzy front end” and sets the stage for successful innovation. I have written extensively about the concept of the portfolio process (1), but in this two-part article I will focus on the role of a solid product definition in innovation success.  Continue reading