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Management Miscellany

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 and founder /former CEO of 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.

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.

An Interview with Carrie Nauyalis on the Stage-Gate Innovation Summit

The annual Stage-Gate® Innovation Summit 2013 recently wrapped up in Miami, leaving attendees with much to think about when it comes to implementing best practices around product development processes. The conference is directed by innovation champions from leading companies and promotes the sharing of ideas that enable immediate improvements in the gated process. Carrie Nauyalis, new product development solution evangelist, Planview, attended the conference for her fourth year and shares her experience with you, right here on Product Pulse.

Q: Having attended or sponsored the Stage-Gate Innovation Summit four times, what keeps you coming back?

Carrie: The Stage-Gate brand is known worldwide and there is so much depth under the methodology. The conference is an outlet for the experienced to share lessons learned with the newcomers trying to develop their process. I am always impressed with the culture of cooperation at the conference. Speakers reveal their best practices, and aren't ashamed to admit their mistakes and what they would do differently ‒‒ that's where the real benefit comes. I also appreciate the opportunity to speak with the presenters, collaborate with others to see how they are doing things, and meet people going through similar issues. You walk away inspired and enthused to get back and tweak your process.

Q: What types of people attended the conference this year?

Carrie: The conference is truly a span of people ranging from Stage-Gate newbies to companies with 10 years of Stage-Gate process under their belts. Everyone there is either a practitioner of Stage-Gate or the beneficiary of the process, meaning they may not directly use the process but they have teams of people under them who do. Both practitioners and beneficiaries glean valuable information based on their business initiatives.

Q: What presentations stood out for you this year?

Carrie: Chester Baker, head of global innovation at Abbott Nutrition, offered staggering statistics about ROI, which is critical when investing people and money in process development and portfolio management. When you consider the cost of paying gate keepers to take time out of their schedules to evaluate projects going to gate and all of the process managers chasing gate deliverables, you want to see returns. Chet illustrated that it's not just about implementation of Stage-Gate or a portfolio management solution like Planview Enterprise, but a collective innovation program with the goal of growing the company.

Of course, Scott Edgett, co-founder of Stage-Gate International, had some wicked-good stats of his own. He said that only one out of every nine concepts becomes a commercial success and 40% of a firm's product development resources go to losers; shocking! That's a lot of failed concepts that drained a lot of valuable resources ‒‒ and a lot of missed opportunities. I truly believe using technology like Planview's can increase the odds, reduce the number of resources applied to losers and increase the commercialization success of products. That's the stuff that gets me up in the morning.

Finally, Bruce Kerr, director of corporate innovation effectiveness at Corning, discussed the evolution of their gated process. He "got" that it's about continuous improvement versus a one-time fix; finding new ways to streamline the process and get better products to market faster. Interestingly, he was one of the only speakers who mentioned social media as part of their product development process. Social media can play a huge role in product development and more companies need to consider it.

Q: What were your key takeaways?

Carrie: 1) Continuous improvement in the Stage-Gate process is critical. You’re never "done." 2) Consumer-facing product companies have an opportunity to incorporate their brand into their Stage-Gate and portfolio processes. Marketing needs to get involved by incorporating brand information into the product development process and portfolio prioritization process. 3) The successful companies have automated their processes using commercialized applications, not spreadsheets. Spreadsheets aren't going to get you there.

To learn more about automating the Stage-Gate Process with Planview Enterprise download your copy of the Planview Enterprise is Certified Stage-Gate® Ready Solution Brief.

I'd like to hear from you. If you attended the Stage-Gate Innovation Summit, share some of the highlights that inspired you. If you didn't attend, what are some key takeaways you had at a product development or innovation conference this year? Share by leaving a comment below.

Reading List for Product Development Professionals

February featured some interesting news and views pertaining to product development and innovation, and we're excited to share some of our favorites. Each month we will share articles we find particularly compelling, fun or insightful here on Product Pulse. We invite you to bookmark the ones you like or add them to your reading list ‒‒ happy reading.

Innovation Excellence Weekly Issue 21: This SlideShare provides Innovation Excellence's pick of ten recent articles. With topics such as Jimi Hendrix for Innovators and Can a Company Over Innovate?, we think you'll enjoy the read!

Forbes: The 3 Ways Innovation is Changing (And How to Adapt Fast): Innovators and product development leaders need to think about the shifts taking place and respond accordingly. Check out the top 3 changes being faced (be sure to read the article to understand implications and required responses):

  • Change #1. The very long-term innovation environment
  • Change #2. Innovate everywhere, always
  • Change #3. Innovate the processes

Innovation Management: Wearable Technology ‒‒ From Geek to Chic?: What will they think of next? Check out wearable technology that integrates the power of smartphone technology into wristbands or smart watches, smart glasses, jewelry, and clothes ‒‒ even tattoos and soon contact lenses (wow)! Big brand players include Apple, Google, Olympus, Sony and Nike along with not so well-known companies such as Pebble, mc10 and Recon Instruments. Read how 2013 is the kicking off wearable technology and its potential growth projections.

You can share some of your top choices for newsworthy articles with our Product Development audience by providing a link and comment below.

The Global State of Resource Management and Capacity Planning [Infographic]

In a recent blog post, Are Your Limited Resources Focused on the Right Opportunities?, Maureen Carlson, chief researcher of the Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study, cites key findings and introduces the study's maturity matrix that you can use to evaluate the maturity of your organization.

2013 Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study InfographicOne revelation is that a great majority of organizations have shared resources across their enterprise, but less than half of them have a dedicated function or role for resource management and capacity planning. Not surprisingly, the ones who do are achieving the most success in terms of resource planning maturity.

Overall, greater visibility of demand and capacity, better demand prioritization, and the ability to adapt to change are cited as key enablers to success. The comprehensive study, which features input from more than 600 participants in more than 17 countries, goes into greater detail and makes recommendations for boosting maturity.

With 44% of respondents from product development, the study sheds a light on the most significant pain points and causes, business risks, software use, and best practices ‒‒ for not only PD but cross industry.

Read the complete blog on Portfolio Perspectives and get your complimentary copy of the report from our 2013 Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study page.

"Many organizations are continuing to operate in a state of chaos or limited visibility into what their resources are working on today and what they are available to do tomorrow. A third of organizations have achieved some level of visibility…" Read more about the Resource Management and Capacity Benchmark Study

Stay tuned to Product Pulse for details from product development respondents and follow #RMCP13 to join the conversation on Twitter.

I'd like to hear from you. How are you currently managing your resources and capacity to ensure your people are working on the right opportunities? Post a comment or ask me a question pertaining to the research by leaving a comment below.

Carlson, M. (2013). Resource Management Capacity Planning Benchmark Study. Planview.

Going Hybrid, and I’m Not Talking about Cars (it’s about the Cloud) - The Cloud: Not Just for Startups AnymoreThe word "hybrid" typically conjures images of the Toyota Prius (only for now if Ford has anything to say about it), but in the world of enterprise software it is about evolving business models. Actually, and more importantly, going hybrid is about bringing more value to customers by providing them with choice -- the choice of cloud-based or on-premise software deployment models. Over the past several years we at Planview have put this hybrid approach at the core of our business. We have embraced SaaS as a transformational business initiative, but at the same time continue to embrace the on-premise model as well. Providing choice is ultimately about being customer-driven versus fighting industry-centric religious wars about business models and technologies. Without question, going hybrid has brought more value to our customers, partners, and shareholders. For more on this transition and how a cloud-hosted approach made it happen, see my recent article on WIRED.

The Cloud: Not Just for Startups Anymore

"Clearly cloud-based software solutions are here to stay. Whether in consumer or enterprise markets, the cloud has transformed the way we deploy and consume software applications. For enterprise customers, cloud-based software radically…" Read the full article.

Fare Thee Well Steve

For those of you with passion for the world of technology, today is without question a very sad day. Whether you are an Apple disciple (like myself), or someone with just a passion for technology, we all lost an inspirational figure in our industry and a remarkable human being. Of course the power of Steve was that he made the most innovative technologies accessible to everyone. The fact that my 75 year old mother (who loves her Mac) was one of the first people I called upon hearing the news of his death is testament to his legacy.

It is interesting talking to people today and the general sense that so many feel they lost someone they knew, although none of us have ever met the man. Few people in history have created that sense -- JFK, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia. In all these cases the person’s mission and vision were almost indiscernible from the person themself. In the case of Steve, every time you hold or interact with an Apple product, you get a visceral sense that his personal stamp is on every aspect of the product. Those products are the technological incarnation of Steve Jobs, and thus we all feel we know the man because we know the products.

I read a piece recently that discussed some recent research concluding that we "love" our iPhones. Through MRI scans of the brain, it was determined that iPhone use stimulates the same regions of the brain associated with feeling of love. Love is a strong word, but I can assure you that watching Steve at a launch event or playing with one of his creations certainly has brought joy to my life -- some of that joy will never be recreated in the same way.

We were blessed to have lived and experienced his genius. Over the past few months, anticipating this day, I will admit that at times I felt cheated out of coming decades of undiscovered joy that Steve would have brought us. But today we need to focus on the genius we were all able to witness and the path that he opened up for all of us. We were fortunate to be a part of it.

Chief Customer Advocate Reporting for Duty

There were many great takeaways from my recent 2-day session with Pragmatic Marketing. Their expert team, including John Milburn, a friendly upbeat guy with 20 years of product management experience in the tech industry including long stints at Tivoli and VTEL, has more than 10 years of experience working with over 70,000 professionals globally in product management training.

Let's start with the most important thing: The FOOD at the AT&T Conference center on The University of Texas campus (where the class was held) is excellent! This information is neither here nor there but if you get the chance, check out the conference center or hotel as an option next time you're in Austin.

From a more business-oriented standpoint we learned:

  • Product management's primary job is to know and speak for the customer.
    • The following quote (with a few modifications) by Peter Drucker was used multiple times: "The aim of product management is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself."
  • Product management's main responsibility is finding their market's problem. To do this, product managers should:
    • Contact customers (both their own and their competitors'), evaluators, and prospects.
    • Use various research methods including discovery (onsite interviews, focus groups, secondary research) and validation (surveys, choice models, experiments).
  • Too often product management gets overwhelmed with tactical instead of strategic activities.
    • As Milburn noted in class, if product management doesn't do its job then the other departments will fill the void. Other groups have their own goals and ideas so if the product management team is not there to speak for the customer, an inside out product could result (one that solves a space problem but not a strategic one).
  • By focusing on my customers' needs and wants, product managers can help their company build solutions that the market will buy, and what is profit if not the ultimate goal of any company?

After spending two full days getting my head stuffed with information (and my belly stuffed with yummy food), I was raring to go out and apply all these new tips and energy to my job. I was eager to see how much of what I learned in class was applicable to real life.

So far, most of the points ring true. I've spoken with multiple customers about their needs and concerns and gathered a lot of useful information. I have also met a good portion of the executives, sales, marketing, and development teams and worked with them on a hodgepodge of projects. It will be interesting to see how well I remember my role as Chief Customer Advocate once I get inundated with a lot of tactical stuff. I will try my best to focus on strategy, Milburn and Drucker!

I am new to product management, but there were people in my session with years of experience, and we each felt that Pragmatic Marketing taught us something useful. Just goes to show that no matter where you are on your career path, there are always opportunities to better understand the marketplace and your role in it. And, that information is almost as satisfying as the AT&T Conference Center's dessert bar!

The Pain Continues: You're Not Alone in Lacking Resources

Written by Maureen Carlson, Partner at Appleseed

Maureen Carlson

It looks like this -- you have a portfolio of products to deliver, resources identified, and a staged process to move through the product development gates. Yet, shifting priorities, unexpected pull on your resources, and lack of visibility are impacting your product schedules. Welcome to Product Development. Now hit head against wall.

Resource capacity planning issues continue to plague the product development organization according to our newly published 2nd Annual Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study. We've just reviewed this research at PIPELINE 2011, which was published earlier this year. In case you missed the event, I'd like to share some interesting takeaways.

Of the 922 product development professionals we surveyed at large product-driven companies:

  • 57% indicated that one of their top 3 pain points was "too many projects for their resources" for the 2nd year in a row
  • 42% find their schedules mostly or highly inaccurate.
  • 50% said that managing changing priorities as business conditions change is their greatest risk.
  • Only 25% rated themselves as good or excellent at resource capacity planning.
  • Not being able to drive innovation fast enough was in the top 3 pain points this year and was identified by nearly 40% of respondents.

Is this sustainable?
Resources are finite and yet respondents reported a significant lack of visibility into capacity and availability, non-product roadmap demands on resources (ex. sales-driven "just do it" projects), and competing priorities.

Two of the people we interviewed via phone put it this way:

"The biggest pain point in my world continues to be execution. We are not doing a good job understanding resources that we have versus what it takes. The representation of existing resource is not great."
-- Manager of NPD, Scientific Products Company

"We do not have a good handle on our resource capacity, we could understand projects in-flight but did not do any forward planning because we do not have a handle on extra capacity, skills, etc."
-- Project Manager, Transportation and Energy Manufacturer

Find out what your peers are looking at in terms of solutions to manage their product portfolios. Download the full report: 2nd Annual Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study.

Innovative But Risk Averse. A Contradiction?

Written by Maureen Carlson, Partner at Appleseed

Maureen Carlson

Is it possible to be innovative and risk averse at the same time? Sure, I suppose so at some level but there must be a measure of calculated risk to achieve innovative breakthroughs.

Recently at PIPELINE 2011, we reviewed the research for the 2nd Annual Product Portfolio Benchmark Study with my colleagues at Appleseed Partners and OpenSky Research. We found enlightening contradictions in terms of innovation priorities and risk-averse cultures (or at least the perception of risk aversion by participants).

To give some background, we surveyed 922 product development professionals at large product-driven companies such as global manufacturers of a myriad of industries including technology, medical devices, consumer packaged goods and financial products among others. Our objective was to understand how they manage complex product portfolios, their most critical pain points and risks, as well as priorities for the coming year.

Here are a couple of interesting findings:

  • Not being able to drive innovation fast enough was in the top 3 pain points this year and was identified by nearly 40% of respondents. Yet, 61% of respondents indicated that their organizations are risk averse to highly risk-averse on new product innovation.
  • The results indicated that their greatest risk is managing priorities as business conditions change and the greatest pain point is having too many projects for their resources.
  • Compared with a year ago, missing growth opportunities is a greater concern than cutting costs.
  • 70% are refining their product development processes as a result of the recession.

I personally spoke to several R&D executives as part of the process to define our study and methodology this year. When asked whether the companies pulled back on innovation during the recession and whether their pipelines shriveled, most claimed that they maintained their innovation budget and did not slash it dramatically, therefore keeping the product pipeline healthy. Having said that, they all expressed a renewed focus on extreme prioritization in light of limited resources.

It seems that now more than ever, making data-driven decisions and calculated risks are important and filling the innovation pipeline is crucial. This report reveals that there may not be sufficient, accurate data and visibility into the product development process for prioritization and decision-making. That could make executives and managers feel risk-averse because no one wants to make bets without information. Are we over-relying on spreadsheets for one of the most strategic roles in the company?

Find out what your peers are looking at in terms of solutions to manage their product portfolios. Download the full report: 2nd Annual Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study.