‘The fact that a product technically works is certainly no guarantee of success. After all, did you create the right thing? Is the customer waiting for it? And is it also marketable, at the right price?
If you are already well into the innovation process, you can no longer change certain things.
That’s why at BEACON we involve all disciplines at an early stage during a development project: R&D, Quality, Production, Purchasing, Sales and Marketing. This has enormous advantages. In a multidisciplinary team, the technical team immediately receives input from all departments, so that technical and commercial development go hand in hand. So you automatically work in parallel and the overall lead time is reduced. By validating at an early stage with prototypes at customers or partners, you know faster whether you are making the right thing. And you don’t have to wait for components, like a marketing plan, for example, because that’s already created during development. So in the end, you can go to market faster. And because of all the input, it becomes a better product with a greater chance of success.’
Clear division of roles
‘In the project team, we give all members a clear role. Everyone is responsible for his or her own department. At each milestone of the project, team members are responsible for deliverables that belong to their department. As a project manager, my job is to bring them into this and get them to think along with me. For example, by asking, “What do we need to deliver within your discipline if we want to pass that milestone?” I find that team members like it when it is very clear what is expected of them, and that their specific contribution is needed and appreciated. So when someone from production foresees a problem in execution, they can raise the alarm right away. So you get important input that otherwise would have been discovered at a much too late stage. My experience is that people really enjoy being able to contribute proactively to a better product.’
‘What is very nice for us as project managers about working with a multidisciplinary team is that you automatically get an enthusiastic ambassador of the product within each department of the company. Because you bring people together in time, they start to cooperate better and ask more of each other. You really get different perspectives that you as a team can use at that time. That saves a lot of frustration. This involvement increases motivation. You feel that you are all working on the same thing. And when a milestone is reached, everyone celebrates throughout the company.
‘Another important advantage of this way of working is that if a product has no chance of success, you discover it at an early stage. For example, the product may be technically possible, but production turns out to be very expensive, making the business case unfeasible. It’s better to know something like that early so that you can make timely adjustments in the product scope, for example, than to find out only after a year of development.’
Sparring partner for all disciplines
‘Managing a structured innovation process with a team throughout the breadth of the company is a skill, though. If this process is new to a company, I would definitely recommend having an outside party facilitate it. At BEACON, we’ve done it all in many places, in all kinds of industries. We have a lot of experience managing the overall innovation process. You need someone who is not only technically savvy but who knows something about all disciplines so that you can be a sparring partner for all disciplines within the team. An additional advantage of outsourcing the project management is that after one innovation project, you have a customized blueprint of a multidisciplinary product innovation process for your company.’Back to overview