Featured Workshops

Pipeline & Resource Management

One of the major factors affecting time-to-market is an overloaded project pipeline and overloaded resources.  It is often tempting to start another important development project when there is little visibility into the current project pipeline and the impact of development resources.  However, queueing theory and pipeline management principals have shown that as resource utilization goes up, queue time dramatically increases and projects are slowed significantly. Lean product development principles and practices and the theory of constraints indicate that the following actions should be taken to reduce time-to-market and improve overall throughput.

  • Use portfolio management to prioritize projects and plan what can be accomplished within a given time period with the planned resources.
  • Manage the product pipeline by only initiating projects as resources become available (Kanban or pull scheduling).
  • Identify and manage the bottleneck resource to increase throughput with resource management tools
  • With a larger number of smaller- and medium-size projects establish a rhythm to project initiation and execution.
We can assist with these steps by undertaking the following.
  1. Establish a portfolio management system to prioritize resources. For further information, see Portfolio Management Consulting and Implementation.
  1. Establish a multi-project resource planning system. The first step is to have an effective project management discipline in place.  If necessary, we can help train and develop project managers or project leaders.  We can help setup a project management office (PMO).  Once there is an effective project management discipline in place and realistic project plans, we can assist in establishing a multi-project resource planning capability.This often requires additional software tools that can pull in resource requirements from project management systems or high-level estimates of resource requirements for projects.  We can help with the evaluation and implementation of such tools.  One system that we have found to be very cost effective is the PD-Trak project portfolio management system.  The implementation of this type of tool will allow visibility in the resource demand of current projects as well as planned or proposed projects.If the current load on resources is greater than the availability of resources, the next key step is to suspend lower priority projects and focus on higher priority projects.  The concept of Kanban suggest that only as resources are freed up should a new project be started.
  1. The next step is to focus on the critical or bottleneck resource as the theory of constraints (TOC) would suggest. At first, this will be used to dictate when resources are available to begin new projects.  But we would then focus attention on other steps to better manage and increase the availability of the bottleneck resource.
  1. Finally, the theory of constraints and lean product development practices suggest establishing a drumbeat or rhythm to the start and execution of projects. This is appropriate with a larger number of smaller- and medium-size projects.  We would analyze the project composition to determine the the feasibility of this step.
  1. All of these measures require management training in the theory and principals of these resource management practices and well as the use of system tools to assess and manage project resources. We can conduct this training and then facilitate initial planning according to these practices.
For further information, contact Kenneth Crow at DRM Associates Phone +1 310-377-5569 Email: k.crow@npd-solutions.com

Organization and System Integration

With the objective of time-to-market, one question to consider is how tightly integrated your development process, system tools and organization are.  We find that in many organizations that these are areas where improvements can be made.  Better integration of the process, plans, organization and tools can reduce time to market and improve the effectiveness of the development project.  We can investigate the following areas to identify opportunities for improvement in time to market and development cost.

Project Planning and Management

There are several areas to investigate to identify ways to better integrate and tighten up project schedules.  One of the most significant factors affecting project schedules is overloaded resources trying to support too many projects.  (Read more on how our services with Managing Project Resources can address this.)  Second, we often see technical leads trying to split their time between managing a project and providing technical leadership.  As a result, the project management functions don’t receive adequate attention and the project can incur schedule delays.  We can helped establish a Project Management Office (PMO) or help train and develop project managers.  Third, Critical Chain Project Management (read more) provides an approach which has enabled reductions in project schedules.  We can help put the methodology in place and identify supporting tools.

Development Process

There are often opportunities to streamline and better integrate the product development process.  We can help identify non-value-added process steps and suggest more effective ways to accomplish development objectives.  We can introduce lean product development practices.  We can perform analysis to identify development tasks taking a long time and examine opportunities to reduce cycle time.

Design Iterations

Often projects end up going through multiple design, build and test iterations late in the development cycle.  We can identify what is causing this and suggest ways to reduce the number of iterations through early simulation and analysis, early prototyping, and early involvement and feedback from disciplines such as reliability engineering, manufacturing, service and procurement.

Organizational Integration

A significant opportunity to speed time to market is for the project team or integrated product team to collaborate and coordinate effectively.  We can assess the team dynamics and offer suggestions to overcome any impediments that may hinder rapid progress.

System and Tool Integration

A final area to consider to better integrate and speed up development activities are the system tools such as CAD, CAE, CAM and PLM used by the development team.  Are these being effectively used to share a digital product model with a minimum of manipulation?  Is paper used to communicate product information or for sign-off effectively slowing down the process?  We can assess how well tools are integrated and used and identify opportunities for more effective use. For further information, contact Kenneth Crow at DRM Associates Phone +1 310-377-5569 Email: k.crow@npd-solutions.com

Lean Product Development

Lean product development (LPD) practices address planning, organization, business process, techniques, and tools. The implementation of this type of broad initiative must be effectively planned and managed. DRM Associates has the LPD experience and offers a proven approach to conducting training and guiding the implementation of lean product developments practices. The key practices of lean product development are described in Lean Product Development Practices. We can help by:

  1. Review and Assessment  We would conduct our structured Product Development Assessment and use gap analysis to identify high priority opportunities for improvement with lean product development practices that would provide the greatest impact. The assessment would cover the organization's products, development process, organization, tools, and LPD objectives. This would be done through a series of interviews with various people in organization. This information would enable us to provide more focused and relevant consulting and training and provide feedback on issues, the organization's readiness for LPD, and implementation priorities. As an alternative, we can provide the organization with our Product Development Best Practices and Assessment Software to perform a self-assessment as a basis for planning improvements.
  2. Executive Commitment  We would then conduct a one-day executive management workshop on Lean Product Development for Management, focusing on organizational issues, business strategy and implementation issues. The objective of this session is to develop executive management commitment, an understanding of the elements of LPD, and agreement on management's role in implementation.
  3. Implementation Planning and Consulting  We would assist with implementation planning and provide follow-up consulting . We would meet with the management to discuss priorities, plans, and issues, to gain agreement on LPD objectives and plans, and resolve the approach for improving the product development process based on lean product development practices. We would also help establish a steering committee and an implementation team to guide the implementation.
  4. Practices, Methods and Tools Implementation  Based on priorities, we can assist with the planning and implementation of lean practices, methods and tools. This includes steps to manage the development pipeline and avoid build-up of excess work-in-process, Understanding what is of value to customers through voice of the customer and requirements definition, lean design practices, practices to streamline the development process, enabling improved coordination and communication with cross-functional teams, and practices to learn and improve.
  5. Portfolio & Pipeline Management  In addition to executing projects in a lean manner, its important to undertake the best projects for the organization. We would work with the management team to establish a portfolio management process to select the optimum projects and a pipeline management process to manage the product pipeline and avoid overloading resources. To the extent that a company strategy needed to be defined as a basis for portfolio planning, we can facilitate the product strategy development.
  6. Training  We would customize our training courses to the company's business environment, products, processes, customers, team organization and LPD approach and then conduct LPD workshop(s) for development personnel, managers, other personnel based on the implementation plans and priorities.
  7. Team Launch  If the organization doesn't have effective cross-functional teams in place, We would conduct our Team Launch Workshop for team members at the start of a new project. We would provide guidance to the teams, assist in applying lessons learned, and serve as a facilitator. We can also assist in re-designing policies, procedures and systems related to planning, budgeting, accounting, performance measurement, and compensation to facilitate the effective operation of the teams.
  8. Facilitation and Support  We can assist individual teams or programs apply LPD practices. This may involve help in define customer customer needs with voice of the customer (VOC), translate these needs into requirements with lean approaches to requirements definition or quality function deployment (QFD), plan development projects, and apply target costing, design to cost, and design for manufacturability/assembly (DFM/A).
  9. Monitoring and Guidance  We would spend several days each month, typically for a period of six months, to provide guidance and monitor efforts to implement LPD. We would participate in periodic steering committee meetings to review and report on progress and identify and resolve impediments or issues. We would guide and assist functional and program management with implementation.
For further information, contact Kenneth Crow at DRM Associates Phone +1 310-377-5569 Email: k.crow@npd-solutions.com

Managing Project Resources

One of the major factors affecting time-to-market is an overloaded project pipeline and overloaded resources.  It is often tempting to start another important development project when there is little visibility into the current project pipeline and the impact of development resources.  However, queueing theory and pipeline management principals have shown that as resource utilization goes up, queue time dramatically increases and projects are slowed significantly. Lean product development principles and practices and the theory of constraints indicate that the following actions should be taken to reduce time-to-market and improve overall throughput.

  • Use portfolio management to prioritize projects and plan what can be accomplished within a given time period with the planned resources.
  • Manage the product pipeline by only initiating projects as resources become available (Kanban).
  • Identify and manage the bottleneck resource to increase throughput
  • With a larger number of smaller- and medium-size projects establish a rhythm to project initiation and execution.
We can assist with these steps by undertaking the following.
  1. Establish a portfolio management system to prioritize resources. For further information, see Portfolio Management Consulting and Implementation.
  1. Establish a multi-project resource planning system. The first step is to have an effective project management discipline in place.  If necessary, we can help train and develop project managers or project leaders.  We can help setup a project management office (PMO).  Once there is an effective project management discipline in place and realistic project plans, we can assist in establishing a multi-project resource planning capability.This often requires additional software tools that can pull in resource requirements from project management systems or high-level estimates of resource requirements for projects.  We can help with the evaluation and implementation of such tools.  One system that we have found to be very cost effective is the PD-Trak project portfolio management system.  The implementation of this type of tool will allow visibility in the resource demand of current projects as well as planned or proposed projects.If the current load on resources is greater than the availability of resources, the next key step is to suspend lower priority projects and focus on higher priority projects.  The concept of Kanban suggest that only as resources are freed up should a new project be started.
  1. The next step is to focus on the critical or bottleneck resource as the theory of constraints (TOC) would suggest. At first, this will be used to dictate when resources are available to begin new projects.  But we would then focus attention on other steps to better manage and increase the availability of the bottleneck resource.
  1. Finally, the theory of constraints and lean product development practices suggest establishing a drumbeat or rhythm to the start and execution of projects. This is appropriate with a larger number of smaller- and medium-size projects.  We would analyze the project composition to determine the the feasibility of this step.
  1. All of these measures require management training in the theory and principals of these resource management practices and well as the use of system tools to assess and manage project resources. We can conduct this training and then facilitate initial planning according to these practices.
For further information, contact Kenneth Crow at DRM Associates Phone +1 310-377-5569 Email: k.crow@npd-solutions.com  

Portfolio Management Consulting & Planning

Portfolio management is an important management process to determine where to best invest a company’s resources in developing new products.  The objectives of this portfolio management process is to maximize the value of the portfolio, achieve strategic objectives with the portfolio, and seek balance across portfolio development projects and products.  Avoiding an overloaded project portfolio is a key step to timely execution of projects. We can assist with developing an organization’s portfolio management process, providing training, and facilitating portfolio planning sessions with management.  The following describes the steps that we might potentially undertake to help a company put in place a portfolio management process and facilitate initial portfolio planning. 1. Review Current Environment We could spend time onsite to understand the current environment as it relates to defining a portfolio management process.  This would include:

  • Company product lines and product evolution including any product and technology roadmaps
  • General company strategy
  • Roles and responsibilities of product managers and other senior personnel involved in defining development projects and decision-making on projects
  • The ideation process
  • New product development (NPD) process, phase definitions, and gate reviews
  • Business cases and financial justification of projects
  • The gate review process
  • Integration of product planning and business planning (annual and longer-term plans)
  • Statistics and metrics related to development projects including number of projects, project size, project staffing levels, project budgets and project durations
  • NPD capacity and resource planning
  • Existing tools to support gate reviews, resource planning, business planning, etc.
This review could be done through interviews and review of procedures and documents.  We would also gain agreement on the scope of the portfolio management process. 2. Prepare and Conduct a Portfolio Management Workshop Based on the information collected, we could prepare and conduct a two-day portfolio management workshop to present the principles of portfolio management and develop a preliminary portfolio management approach.  The stakeholders in the portfolio management process would attend this workshop and participate in this initial decision-making process.  The output of this workshop would be a high-level definition of the portfolio process, identification of the roles and responsibilities of the key personnel in the portfolio management process, and a list of action items for further follow-up and definition. 3. Complete Definition of the Portfolio Management Process We could work with company personnel to more completely define the portfolio management process.  This would be formally documented.  This resulting “process” definition would include:
  • Definition of portfolio planning meetings
  • Timetable or calendar for portfolio management meetings and activities
  • Information and decision-making flow with portfolio management information and planning steps
  • Roles and responsibilities of personnel to support the portfolio management process
  • Definition of the breakdown of product line/business unit portfolio planning vs. enterprise portfolio planning with options ranging from total business unit responsibility to enterprise-level strategic allocation to total enterprise-level responsibility
  • Description of how the gate review process supports portfolio planning
  • Description of how portfolio planning integrates with business planning and resource management
  • Scorecard criteria for projects, high-level criteria for ideas, the scoring methodology, and financial metrics to use as a basis for project prioritization
  • Road mapping methodology and formats
  • Ground rules for portfolio planning
We could conduct walk-through’s and reviews of this “process” with management and finalize this process based on feedback. 4. Pilot the Portfolio Management Process We could assemble portfolio information and conduct a pilot run of the portfolio planning process.  This pilot run would be an initial portfolio planning session where projects would be prioritized and a portfolio plan would be developed for the planning period.  This pilot run would require that the project information be assembled to support the prioritization and planning of product development projects and ideas for products.  This would include scoring of in-process projects through gate reviews, scoring or proposed projects, and high-level scoring of ideas.  It could also include assembling other necessary financial metrics, preparing product roadmaps for product lines, and developing appropriate analytical graphs and information displays.  We could coordinate getting this supporting information assembled and guide its preparation by company personnel.  We could then facilitate the portfolio planning process.  Based on this pilot planning session, we would work with management to identify any issues or adjustments required to the planning process. 5. Identify Requirements and Evaluate Software Based on the portfolio management “process” and the pilot planning, we could identify requirements for supporting portfolio management tools.  We would then research and identify potential portfolio management solutions.  We could assist and support company personnel in the evaluation of these software tools.  The decision on which software tool to use would be made by company personnel.  Our role is to facilitate the evaluation process. 6. Implement Supporting Software Tools Working with the selected software vendor, we could put together a plan to install, configure and implement the portfolio management software tool.  We could then support efforts to configure the software and coordinate setting up the needed portfolio management information in the software tool.  Because some of these tools may require implementation of other supporting project justification, project planning and project monitoring functions; gate review functions; and pipeline management functions, these functions may need to be implemented first and supporting project information created.  It also may be necessary to make adjustments to the portfolio management process based on capabilities or limitations of the software tool.  These refinements would be made as part of the implementation process. 7. Deploy Process and Tools In conjunction with the software vendor of the portfolio management system, we could prepare a training program for the portfolio management process, supporting software tool, and other needed functions in the software tool to generate the required portfolio information.  Multiple training sessions may be needed to cover personnel in different locations and training may need to be phased.  We could support this training as required and guide the set-up of needed project information. 8. Facilitate Portfolio Management Planning Once the supporting functions have been deployed and the needed portfolio information has been set-up in the software tool, we could then conduct a portfolio management workshop based on use of this tool.  We would suggest a workshop format of training in the process and tool in conjunction with actual portfolio planning sessions.  We could provide any additional assistance needed to get the portfolio management process and supporting tool successfully deployed. Further Information To learn more about our capabilities and the basic principles of Portfolio Management for product development projects, see our presentation on Portfolio Management Capabilities and Approach.  See Portfolio Management Workshop for further information on our interactive portfolio process development and training. For further information, contact Kenneth Crow at DRM Associates Phone +1 310-377-5569 Email: k.crow@npd-solutions.com