If you come from an R&D background, project planning for product development is an undertaking that requires a whole different mindset. Unlike research planning, project planning is closely tied to measurable business outcomes that will lead to improvements in the company bottom line. Research planning and execution is a sub-component of a project, and can be structured to work within a project by considering what data you need to collect, how to present it in order to address a specification for the product.
Having come from an R&D background, we at ALine needed help creating a more encompassing planning process that would support business growth. We sought expert advice, and worked with a consultant to help us create a framework for prioritizing internal project activities by defining success, creating specifications, evaluating risk, and managing a timeline.
What we learned we summarized in a concise document that serves as a framework not only for internal projects, but also for projects with clients.
In a business context, projects are tied to generation of revenue within a strategic framework.
Projects are different from routine operations that generate revenue. Projects require conscious, planned effort, and are first time efforts. Hence, projects are hard and have risks associated with them that need to be carefully identified and mitigated in a scope and specification document.
A project organized for success will address the following:
- The need to use resources efficiently and wisely
- Have clear definitions of success
- Provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction for the team
- Has a positive impact on the bottom line.
- Extends the companies capabilities to meet future needs
The scope includes the milestones and measurable outcomes with timelines, dependencies and delivery dates. Those milestones and measurable outcomes are then translated into the characteristics or technical specifications for a successful project. Once the characteristics and technical specifications have been carefully considered, a hazard analysis is required to identify the potential failure modes and the severity of that failure for each technical specification. Severe failures are those that cause a safety concern, while cosmetic or aesthetic issues may be a nuisance, but don’t impact usability.
Potential failures need to be addressed by examining the potential causes, and creating approaches to design it out, along with a method for testing the modification to verify that it eliminates the failure.
Specifications are ranked according to the severity of a failure, and a task and timeline is then prioritized to address specifications with highly adverse potential failures first. Part of the planning includes consideration of the test methods that will verify the risk has been eliminated. This approach ensures that risks that might require a complete reconsideration of the project are addressed first, eliminating surprises after a large investment in the project has been made.
Re-framing development activities to address risks, rather than answer questions as we do in research is a pivotal distinction between product development projects and research.
As you embark on a new project, contact us to help you with the upfront project planning, including criteria for success, and specification development using the project planning template available by filling out the form below.
Microfluidic Project Planning Template
This excel spreadsheet has different sheets that guide the user through the considerations for a new Project or Product Development effort.