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April 2013

Changing the Game with Innovation that Works


What to Expect at PIPELINE 2013 and Four Reasons to Attend

I am very excited to announce to all our Product Pulse readers that PIPELINE 2013 registration is open! This year's conference is all about "Changing the Game with Innovation that Works." As innovators, we know that inspiration is only a piece of the puzzle — and that's where PIPELINE comes in. Read the latest press releaseChanging the Game With Innovation.

Now in its fourth year — the online conference for innovative product development highlights innovation tools, techniques, and tangible takeaways shared by thought leaders, solution providers, and innovation practitioners. And for the first time, PIPELINE will feature several presentations in both German and English to appeal to its diverse and growing global audience. PIPELINE 2013 showcases keynote presentations:

  • Terry Jones, chairman of Kayak.com and founder /former CEO of Travelocity.com will speak about Turning on Innovation in Your Culture — Teams and Organizations
  • Frans Johansson, innovation author and founder/CEO of the Medici Group will discuss The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World
  • Dr. Oliver Gassmann, innovation author and director of the Institute for Technology Management of the University of St. Gallen will speak about The Art and Science of Innovation (Presented in English and German)

PIPELINE 2013 will take place May 16th and opens at 4:30 AM CDT / 9:30 GMT with the first presentation kicking-off at 5:00 AM CDT /10:00 GMT followed by an assortment of informational and inspiring presentations running throughout the day. The conference will conclude at 2:30 PM CDT / 19:30 GMT so mark your calendars, select what you want to attend, and don't miss this extraordinary event.

Four reasons you should attend PIPELINE 2013:

  1. It's free to attend; no travel required.
  2. Connect and network with product leaders and innovators from organizations from all around the world!
  3. Get valuable insight and gain knowledge from PIPELINE's impressive lineup of speakers and sponsors.
  4. Leave the event feeling inspired and motivated and lead the innovation strategy within your organization.

As the host sponsor of PIPELINE, we will share conference updates and feature articles from PIPELINE speakers and sponsors, right here on Product Pulse. Read Kaylee Kolditz's article titled, Lighting the Way to a Brighter World Though Innovation at PIPELINE 2013 on the PIPELINE Buzz page. Want to know more about the event? Watch this video for a quick overview.

What are you looking forward to most at PIPELINE 2013? Share by leaving a comment below. I look forward to seeing you at the event.

Four Recommended Articles for Product Development Success


As we quickly transition into the second quarter of 2013, I wanted to share several informative articles from some terrific innovation publications including Innovation Management, Enterprise Apps Today, and Intelligent HQ. A couple of the articles feature insights and recommendations from the newly released Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study; another promotes continued awareness and best practices for meeting launch windows and getting products to market faster, and the last shares key ways to improve your decision making process.

  1. Product Portfolio Management: Getting Products to Market Faster
    Featured earlier this month in Enterprise Apps Today, this article provides insight based on last fall's Issue In Focus: Meeting Product Launch Windows research report. Jim Brown, president of Tech-Clarity, shares how product portfolio management software can help organizations more quickly launch new products.

    Read the article on Enterprise Apps Today.
  2. From Chaos to Control: New Research Reveals the Global State of Resource Management and Capacity Planning
    This article reviews the results from the Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study, identifying best practices to avoid wasting resources on the wrong opportunities.

    Read the article on InnovationManagement.se and learn how to help your organization stop wasting resources.
  3. Interview with Planview: How does your company's maturity level impact innovation?
    IntelligentHQ interviewed Jerry Manas, bestselling business author, and Maureen Carlson, chief researcher, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study.

    Access the interview on IntelligentHQ and gain insight into your company's maturity level.
  4. Equipped to Face Tough Portfolio Decisions in 2013
    As part of the eLearning program with InnovationManagement.se, this article revisits the three things your product organization can do to improve decision making this year.

    "If you manage a product portfolio, it's likely you have tough decisions to make in 2013. How will you make the tradeoffs, such as killing underperforming products and funding new ones? Do you have the data to make the right decisions?"

    Continue reading on InnovationManagement.se.

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Lessons Learned: Assessing the Skills of 450 Research and Development Professionals


The superheated economy of the late 1990s was punctuated by a scramble for resources and market-share. Stalwart companies like IBM were waking up to the reality that they could not skate on their size and reputations -- they too had to become masters of change.

IBM's mantra, "A new shade of blue" signaled their intended transformation to become a more agile organization. To fuel this transformation, IBM needed to assess the skills, core competencies, and training needs across more than a dozen research and development centers. My assignment was to plan and obtain approval for this worldwide initiative. Then, coordinating my activities with the other labs, I'd directly manage the skills survey and analysis of 450 professionals in Austin, Texas.

The assignment seemed straightforward. I designed a prototype survey, data capture and reports. Working with other designated managers, we agreed on a common set of skills categories and established consistent definitions for the 5 skill levels. We recognized that the data and subsequent value of the skills survey would quickly go stale, so we designed an online tool which would support profile updates, the addition of new skills and the retirement of skills no longer valued. We set up and tested the completed online survey tools. Everything was good to go… or so we thought.

Our initial rollout of the survey tool to First Line Managers turned up an immediate oversight: while those on the planning team embraced the survey as a means to better utilize the skills of our professionals and offer relevant training, the #1 fear among those taking the survey was that the information would be used to eliminate their jobs. With such a concern, lack of cooperation and gaming the system become more likely. A skills survey taken under these circumstances would be useless. What followed were a series of discussions with Managers to create a skills assessment system which would satisfy the needs of all parties. This included a documented agreement to utilize aggregated data for organizational planning and limit the access to individual skills profiles.

Lessons Learned

The following lessons apply to skills assessments, performance reviews and other areas where collected data has the potential to affect compensation and job security.

1. Set clear objectives

An accurate profile of skills is an asset in capacity planning, developing the capabilities of an organization and matching employees with appropriate assignments. Clear objectives will establish the level of detail and effort needed for the assessment. If objectives and communications are unclear, you will have a difficult time enlisting others' support, expend more effort and be leaving the value to chance.

Clarity is also important in setting objective guidelines for skill levels. Such guidelines may include years of experience, levels of responsibility, completed coursework and certifications equating to a given skill level.

2. Address concerns and motivate participation

Skills assessments are best initiated during times of growth when participation can be rewarded with choice assignments and professional development. Initiating a skills assessment at any other time will be more problematic. Addressing concerns openly creates the possibility for all parties to come to common grounds even in difficult times.

3. Never compromise trust

Trust is an asset that, once lost, is difficult to regain. Using skills profiles for anything other than a mutually beneficial purpose will undermine future assessments and job performance. Likewise, you will need to consider how to handle employees who deliberately game the system.

4. No substitute for direct communications

Skills assessments are just a planning tool. For resource management, nothing takes the place of good communications, mentoring, team-building and leadership.

Last year, LinkedIn introduced skills "tags" and endorsements as a search aid to match employers with job seekers. In retrospect, this approach of having employees voluntarily identify skills at a single level would provide much of the value for planning assignments without touching off job security concerns. Skills identification is quicker to do and easier to maintain than a multi-level skills assessment -- a good start for most Enterprise Resource Management initiatives.

How do you perform skills assessments in your organization? Share your best practices and lessons learned by leaving a comment below.