NPD Tales

Ideas Thoughts and Comments on Product Development

Increasing NPD Productivity – Integration (5 of 5)

The previous posts have focussed in turn on the three key factors influencing NPD productivity (People, Project and Portfolio).  However substantial improvements to the overall performance of NPD activities can be achieved by examining the interface between all the associated elements of the three factors – for example.

- Resource availability influencing project prioritisation

- Engineer motivation being increased by communicating the reasoning behind portfolio management decisions

- Having a real time exchange of resource planning and project planning throughout the life of the project to adapt to changes in project schedule or priorities

- Effective communication of the results of project reviews to ensure engineers are not ‘left in the dark’

- Identifying the dependence of sales forecasts on launch date to ensure project planning and control are meeting business needs

- Feeding back project review results to drive portfolio management activities and adjusting priorities of all projects accordingly

The list is almost endless and the key is a dynamic exchange of information.  How can that be achieved?

I’ve raised the subject of Enterprise Wikis before and there is an increase in the number of real time collaborative tools (like SamePage, BaseCamp and MS SharePoint).  Some even suggest that a complex extension of highly integrated ERP or PLM tools are the answer.  I feel that understanding the need for such exchange of information is as important as the choice of tool.

ERP, PDM etc. – Reluctance

Not for the first time, I recently encountered a situation regarding the entry of new components and Bills of Materials onto an ERP system.  The operations team were frequently frustrated by reluctance within the development team to enter information regarding new products.  Without this information they claimed it was difficult to provide accurate product cost estimates, plan prototype manufacture and set up schedules for purchasing long lead items.  The development team had a strong preference for a more manual approach to generating this important information from BOMs that were created ‘offline’.

The root of the issue was one of trust.  The operations team felt that there was a lot of unnecessary obscuring of the facts and a propensity for making last minute changes which would inevitably upset their carefully constructed plans.  The development team felt that once the information was entered onto the system a whole sequence of events and activities would be automatically instigated and any changes would have to be accompanied by onerous engineering change documentation.

The solution was simply to facilitate an open and frank discussion about the issue.  Once the usual mix of emotion and anecdote was dealt with, a level of understanding and trust developed and solutions that met with universal approval were quickly established..

..then the finance team got involved…