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How "Strategic Buckets" Can Keep Projects on Track

Unlock pipeline gridlock

Too many projects in the development pipeline is a common but serious complaint in new-product development departments. Pipeline gridlock leads to under-resourced development projects, which end up taking too long to get to market, and then often under-perform. Solutions are offered—Gates with Teeth, Red Flags and the Productivity Index—to achieve a more balanced development pipeline with fewer projects but better projects.

Too Many Projects in the Pipeline

Portfolio management is about translating your business’s innovation strategy into investment decisions on specific new-product projects. Since its popularization in the mid-1990s, new-product portfolio management has faced a number of challenges, as industry struggled to get it right. The most frequently cited challenge is pipeline gridlock—that is, simply too many development projects in the pipeline for the available resources.1,2,3,4 Portfolio managers are “normally concerned and overwhelmed with issues like the prioritization of projects and the continuous distribution of personnel from the different projects to overcome the urgent crises.”5 The result is that people resources are spread too thinly across too many projects, so that every project, even the important ones, are under-resourced.6 The lack of needed resources is one of the fundamental reasons why projects take so long to get to market, and is also blamed for shortcuts taken to save time and effort, that later come back to haunt the project team.7

The Role of New-product Portfolio Management

The accepted definition in prior research states that “new-product portfolio management is a dynamic decision process, whereby a business’s list of active new-product (R&D) projects is constantly updated and revised. In this process, new projects are evaluated, selected, and prioritized; existing projects may be accelerated, killed or deprioritized; and resources are allocated and reallocated to the active projects.”8,9 The PDMA Handbook definition is much the same.10

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