Global Tech Scouting – Opportunities & Pitfalls

In this webinar recording, Amritt Inc.’s Gunjan Bagla discusses the ins and outs of establishing an international technology scouting program.  During this 60-minute session, Mr. Bagla answers the following questions:

  • Why is Global Technology Scouting important in 2013 and beyond?
  • Why traditional methods of scouting can have limited value when you go overseas?
  • What are the top unique pitfalls and worries about global scouting?

For an additional perspective on global technology scouting, you’re invited to the next session of the CoDev2014 Free Webinar Series:



Product Development Metrics: Truth in Numbers or Mathemagic?

mathemagicThe following is the introductory article to the 1999 Management Roundtable publication, “Product Development Metrics Handbook: What every manager needs to know about measuring product development.” 

Sure, it is a bit past its freshness date, but it all still mostly holds true.

Truth In Numbers or Mathemagic?

What do metrics mean to business? Since the time that W.E. Deming introduced statistical process control to the Japanese, manufacturing metrics have led the world down a quality revolution that, while significantly matured in the last half of the 20th century, remains fundamentally incomplete. However, as programs such as TQM and Six Sigma succeed on the shop floor, similar improvement methods and philosophies have yielded comparably little progress in the product development systems that feed the production schedules of manufacturing. Many have made gains in cycle time, product cost and other elements, but few feel they have achieved the desirable level of process control.

What is the difference that is keeping engineering, marketing and affiliated functions from achieving the quantum improvements enjoyed by their manufacturing brethren? One has only to look at the metrics.

The critical component of successful quality in manufacturing is that its events and phenomena consist of controllable, finite variables. The output yield of capital equipment, such as tool and die machinery, can be optimized to a predictable level with extreme accuracy, but the output of a product development team by contrast seems intangible, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. After all, product development activities are largely non-physical, unrepeatable, and exponentially more variable. Most say this is because of product development being a “creative process,” while manufacturing is merely its “physical execution.”

Think about it. There is a giant difference between a) “how long will it take to make 100 widgets?”; and b) “how long until you finish the drawing for the control interface?” In the first instance, the parameters are relatively finite, in the second, nearly infinite. The widget producer knows his machine makes between 48-52 widgets every hour, plus he knows that this is dependent on limited variables such as inventory, machine setup time and a few other things that are predictable and controllable. By contrast, the engineer may provide an estimate for completion time, but his accuracy is much worse, plus there are many more variables that can affect him. He need only be distracted by one phone call, say, from the person who took over his last project, and also to discover that a part he specified was no longer available, to be delayed three days as a result, potentially costing the project several thousand dollars in the long run that nobody will notice until it is too late, if at all.

If you take an honest look at the way companies are structured, there is also a very critical cultural component to this problem. If you compare the demographics of shop floor staff with engineering staff, you will quickly notice a significant socio-economic gap between the two. Engineers are some of the most highly educated employees of any company, and often in highly specialized disciplines from prestigious universities. Such people are not typically open minded about corporate initiatives in general, and have even less affection for attempts to have their work “controlled” by things such as metrics.

On the contrary, manufacturing personnel live in an daily environment of control, with defined reward systems for compliance. Good shop floors maintain tight work discipline for things like cleanliness, preparation, and safety. These things are nearly non-existent in engineering and marketing departments, making this side of the house much less willing to accept changes that incorporate increased accountability. Metrics are often used to expose problems that many don’t want credit for. To ignore these critical cultural issues is an immediate death sentence for any improvement effort.

So why then pursue such a challenge? The downstream effects of this lack of control in product development mirrors what happens with poor production methods: excessive rework, abundant waste and scrap, and embarrassing and costly late deliveries to customers. Once companies initiate effective quality programs on the shop floor and get a taste of the good life of statistically controlled, predictable and accurate manufacturing, it is not at all a surprise that their efforts would then turn to the rest of their business. What is most desired is a process that makes your entire business predictable, a “stretch goal” that is perhaps unachievable.

Why shouldn’t companies simply be satisfied with efficient manufacturing? It’s simply the economics. After all, it is widely argued that 80% of a company’s profits can be directly attributed to 20% of the organization — the product development function — which includes engineering, R&D, marketing and all of the pieces that compose this cross-functional group. In theory, to press on this leverage point and streamline development would complete the picture and enable one to take full advantage of previous gains in manufacturing efficiency. The result would hopefully be a money making machine.

Additional excerpts of the Metrics Handbook will be published in the near future, keep watching this space or subscribe to this blog for updates.


Innovate Faster with these Lean & Agile Project Management Tools

mouse-with-toolsMore and more we are seeing a wider adoption of tools from Agile software development migrate into other R&D and product development offices, a logical progression as more and more products are incorporating a software component, forcing some degree of cross-pollination.

In their recently published book, Innovate Products Faster, TC Gen‘s John Carter and Jeanne Bradford outline new configurations of product management for product developers facing today’s growing complexity.  Many of these techniques have been incorporated into Apple’s official New Product Development Process.

The following tools from Innovate Products Faster are now being made available as a free download.  Fill out the form below and we’ll email you links to the following spreadsheet-based tools from TC Gen:

Team Wheel

Clearly identify the project team leaders, critical functions and the specific individuals fulfilling these functions. This tool shows a graphical snapshot of the project team and ensures you have the right resources in place at the right time.

Function Phase Matrix

Identifies the project objectives, roles and responsibilities of team members, and key deliverables for all project phases. This tool provides an overview of the entire development process in a one-page view.

Outsourcing Map

Creates a matrix to determine the best source of appropriate skills based on your requirements. This tool takes some of the guesswork out of the outsource selection process and minimizes risk by providing meaningful recommendations.

Schedule Predictability Accuracy

Provides an effective way to detect and eliminate project risks before they occur. This tool provides a visualization of the entire project over time, with an emphasis on tracking the changes of the schedule over time so you can see how predictable the project manager is, and to help you anticipate the implications on future milestones.

To request download links to be sent to you via email, please fill out and submit the following form:


Is “Strong-Form” Product Management the same as Toyota’s “Chief Engineer” Concept?

strongformOne of the highlighted practices recommended by a recent report from Booz & Co. is a concept you may have heard about called “Strong-Form Product Management.”  Like most best practices, this isn’t really a new concept, but more like a great idea given new labels and contexts.

In this particular example, Strong Form Product Management seems strongly inspired by Toyota Motor Corp.’s “Chief Engineer” system.   Basically, both models call for there to be a singular person to act as a chief integrator and business champion whose oversight will improve overall quality and ensure the entire development program remains agile.  Another name that you may have heard this concept called is “Heavyweight Product Manager.”

Regardless of title, the idea behind a function such as this is that the person should have complete control over final decision making with the caveat that they are also directly responsible for financial and market performance.   Ideally, this person becomes intimate with the voice of the customer, stays on top of all technical design tradeoffs, integrates the contributions of all product development functions to reduce complexity and maintain the project’s focus on the bottom line.

Now compare that with the following list of Chief Engineer responsibilities from Scott Belware’s blog:

  • Voice of the customer
  • Customer-defined value
  • Product concept
  • Program objectives
  • Architecture
  • Performance
  • Product character
  • Product objectives
  • Vision for all functional program teams
  • Value targets
  • Product planning
  • Performance targets
  • Project Timing

Seems like pretty much the same thing to us!

If you’d like a copy of the “2013 Industry Perspective” Booz & Co. report that discusses the “Strong Form Product Management” concept and their other management recommendations, please complete and submit the form below:


OI Quick Hits – 6 minutes with Dr. Gene Slowinski

Alliance Management expert, Rutger’s Dr. Gene Slowinski, gave this quick interview at a recent CoDev conference, answering a few quick questions on managing open innovation partnerships.  In this 6 minute video, Dr. Slowinski gives his candid take on a small range of subjects, including:

  • How OI alliances can quickly scale up in complexity
  • The trickiness of working within existing supply chain practices and how the needs of open innovation may not fit within traditional channels
  • How to get the entire value chain of functions to contribute effectively

Dr. Slowinski will be leading one of the four pre-conference workshops at CoDev2014 and you can also catch him at his upcoming FREE webinar on August 13, 2013.  See the links below for more details.