10 Ways to Improve Your Return on Innovation Investments

Here are 10 highly effective ways to increase your return on innovation investments in new product development (NPD).


1.    Treat innovation management as a cross-functional business process from beginning to end.

Many companies fail to incorporate the strategic planning and investment decision phases of innovation management into their business process. Don't do this.


2.    Align your innovation and business strategies.

To ensure that your company is agile and achieves long-term success, your business strategy and innovation objectives must be in alignment with one another. Innovation is a key business function: don't make the mistake of separating it from the other business strategies. Incorporate it.


3.    Look past the short-term gains if you want to achieve long-term success.

Innovation and new product development is not a short-term process with a quick payout; it's laying the foundation for future business and success. Remember this when developing your company's innovation strategy and setting measurable, achievable goals for your new products.


4.    Train senior executives in successful innovation practices.

Senior management plays a key role in all business proceedings. In order to achieve your innovation objectives, your company's senior executives must have an active role in making decisions about which new products you should invest in and which you should kill – before you invest a single dime in development.


5.    Process Management vs. Project Management: Know the difference.

Process and project management are NOT the same thing! Process management precedes project management. It is the planning, organization and systems implementation portion of innovation. Project management is the management of all tasks involved in creating and selling a new product. Though both are important to achieving new product success, don't substitute one for the other.


6.    Measure innovation performance with process metrics.

Process metrics measure the performance of a particular innovation project against set criteria and standards. This enables early identification of issues that could develop into bigger problems if left unattended.


7.    Ensure broad stakeholder buy-in from the top-down.

For an innovation to become a way you do business and not just a way to catch a potential shareholder's eye, you need to garner support from colleagues throughout the organization – from IT to R&D to legal and compliance to marketing and manufacturing. Be sure to explain to your various stakeholders what role you expect them to play in the innovation process, why their active input and participation is important, and what the expected outcomes are from this process.


8.    Keep your eye on the ball: stay conscious of all your active innovation projects.

Most new product ideas are generally connected to and/or dependent on other projects in the development pipeline. Best practices dictate that you need to capture this information in a central repository of information so that timelines don't slip and resources are wasted on products that are destined to fail. One way to address this is to use strategic roadmapping and product portfolio management software to visualize these inter-dependencies between projects and make resource and market adjustments as needed.


9.    Help your innovation team succeed.

Fully commit to the innovative process and ensure that the project team has all of the tools they need in order to be successful. Enterprise Innovation Management Software is commonly used to help innovation teams centralize new product information and help senior executives make better decisions about which new products to invest and which to kill early in the process.


10.    Always keep portfolio and process management closely linked.

Product portfolio management systems that don't support innovative processes do not work. Successful portfolio management requires the incorporation of real-time technical and business data that allows all innovation investments  to be thoroughly and objectively reviewed and measured against the company's long-term strategic plan. Doing so will help your organization achieve real returns on your innovation investments and ensure the long-term success of your business.


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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2009 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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