If you're involved in New Product Development, then you're likely using some sort of gated method to manage your product development process. And if you're using a gated process, then you've surely heard of Stage-Gate. And if you've heard of Stage-Gate®, then you know all about THE de facto expert on the process: Dr. Robert Cooper, founder of Stage-Gate International. (Before I continue with this blog post, I must be completely transparent and make a confession: I have a secret, professional crush on Dr. Bob's brain. The man is brilliant, dynamic, extremely engaging during his training classes, and definitely crush-worthy. So yes, I'm biased!) Dr. Cooper has written numerous books, along with his business partner, Dr. Scott Edgett, on the topics of product innovation, NPD, and product portfolio management. These guys definitely know what they're talking about.
To help organizations implement and automate this methodology, further reinforcing recommended best practices, Stage-Gate has created a set of detailed criteria that software vendors must demo to prove that their solution is Stage-Gate Ready. The 200+ certification criteria focus on the areas of idea management, the idea-to-launch process, and portfolio management. The criteria are challenging and the certification process is grueling (trust me, I know). Stage-Gate upped its game by introducing an additional set of 30 criteria (version 2), with more coming towards the end of 2010 (presumably, version 3).
The new criteria do a terrific job of diving into some critical aspects of managing a gated process, including:
- Post-launch review
- Product roadmapping
- What-if analysis on the portfolio
- Portfolio optimization (computing the efficient frontier)
These features are absolute "must-haves" in order to ensure your company's products are successful in the market and drive revenue.
Additionally, I applaud the folks at Stage-Gate for the amount of attention they placed on portfolio management reporting and analytics in this new version of the certification criteria. New reporting-and-analytics-focused criteria include:
- Dashboards for reviewing In-Process Performance
- Graphically illustrating an actual pipeline of projects
- Graphically illustrating a portfolio for Strategic Buckets
Having helped many companies implement portfolio management processes and solutions, I know that focusing on the desired outputs clearly defines the necessary inputs. But unfortunately, some people get caught up in the excitement of putting data into the system, instead of what type of data they want to get out of the system for effective decision making; analyzing the data, not entering the data, should be the focus. These new criteria will hopefully get companies on the right path.
There were two new criteria added to the Idea Management section of the evaluation, but they weren't earth shattering. This is a big bummer because there is a lot of talk right now around using innovation and ideation to better feed the product pipeline. It's the front end of the funnel and the old tricks of the employee suggestion box simply don't really cut it in the "new normal." Hopefully (wink-wink, nudge-nudge, Dr. Bob), more emphasis will be placed on this section in the next version of the criteria.