Yes, there you are. You have to innovate and you have to innovate fast. At the same time, your budget has been adjusted or even cut back significantly. You have to make choices. And the project must be carried out as efficiently as possible in order to achieve the maximum result at the lowest possible cost. That is easier said than done. After all, innovation brings with it unpredictability and it is precisely this unpredictability that makes the efficient management of innovative projects difficult.
Why familiar project approaches do not work well
Traditional project approaches, such as PRINCE2, struggle with unpredictability. At the start of the project, a ‘schedule of requirements’ is drawn up, in which detailed knowledge of the solution is assumed, whereas in reality this does not yet exist. This actually puts you on the wrong track from the start. Progressive insight is then regarded as a setback: implementing changes during the project costs more time and money than expected.
Agile then? This approach comes from software development and can deal much better with unpredictability and progressive insight. But many business processes involve more than just software, and the agile techniques cannot be directly translated into non-software projects. With software, changes can be implemented relatively quickly and at low cost. With hardware, things are different: a carpenter can saw the plank shorter, but not longer.
The traditional and agile approaches are not wrong, but they should not be applied too dogmatically. It is better to use certain ingredients from these approaches and tailor the approach to your project. Based on our experience with innovative projects, we will give you four tips that you can consider including in your project.
Tip 1: Last responsible moment
Instead of making all design choices as quickly as possible, it makes much more sense to map out the most important choices, but only make a decision at the moment the choice has to be made. This is the idea behind ‘last responsible moment’. This is not procrastination, but clever use of time and information. Information is collected prior to the moment of choice, so that by the time the design choice must be made at the latest, that choice can be based on the most up-to-date and complete information possible.
Tip 2: Concept flexibility
With ‘concept flexibility’, you start with the broadest possible set of options, which gradually narrows. The more alternatives that can be thought of and the more they differ from each other, the greater the flexibility in the project. When you have to make a choice, you not only have the most up-to-date and complete information, you also have something to choose from.
Tip 3: Early warning system
Every innovative project needs an ‘early warning system’ to discover progressive insights. Prototypes are a very strong communication tool in innovation and are extremely suitable for this purpose. You can opt for sketches or cardboard scale models, or even for a version that is actually tested in the operation. The important thing is that you gain more insight and act on it.
Tip 4: Prototype driven specification
To be able to realise your project really efficiently, specifications should not be determined once, but developed during the project. Each prototype must be actively used to generate new requirements and to further refine known requirements. This creates a process of “prototype-driven-specification” within the project. In this way, advancing insight is not a setback costing time and money, but knowledge that is embraced to actually make business processes safer, more robust and more agile. Give it to me!
Which approach is best for your project? That depends on the characteristics of your process, technology and organisation. Would you like to exchange views? Then contact Joost Vrijhoef or Dries van Diepen. Or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We like to think along with you!