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Not knowing what to do next and who to involve slows a project and interrupts collaboration. The most innovative companies have clearly defined, repeatable processes for structuring and increasing cross-functional collaboration.
A dynamic gated process organizes new product development (NPD) projects into a series of activities or phases involving people from different company functions. Automating the process dramatically improves cross-functional alignment and accountability, which reduces time-to-market. When executed correctly, gated decision-making also fosters cross-functional collaboration and reduces risk. NPD thrives on good collaboration; however, many organizations have obstacles that impede it.
Let’s look at some of the most common challenges to collaboration and how an innovation management solution can help you overcome them.
Challenges to company collaboration
While every organization and its structure is unique, we’ve found most organizations that struggle with cross-functional collaboration suffer from at least one of the following challenges:
- Multiple stakeholders with competing objectives. An innovation project could include numerous teams with dozens of team members with different needs and goals. Stakeholders come from manufacturing, supply chain, R&D, marketing, finance, etc. For many companies, stakeholders and team members span the globe. If you think of all the jobs necessary to move to the next phase of a project—let alone the myriad jobs that exist between ideation and launch—it’s a challenge to comprehend.
- Time constraints. NPD projects involve multiple teams, all on varying schedules and deadlines. And participants have other demands on their time (often increasingly so due to business disruption). Bringing everyone together at the same time to align on updates, next steps and other vital information about the project can be difficult, if not impossible.
- Redundant and conflicting information. Each team member often creates (and recreates) the information they bring to the project via manual processes, which can be slow and lead to inaccuracies. All too often, that information is stored over disparate information vehicles like email, SharePoint, PowerPoint, Word documents, Excel, Slack and Microsoft Teams. When a team works in different systems, it’s nearly impossible to capture information correctly and achieve the real-time visibility necessary for effective collaboration.
How innovation management systems remove collaboration barriers
With so many challenges that can impede collaboration, there is a way to overcome them. By implementing the right innovative collaboration tools and processes, organizations will be better positioned for cross-functional execution that leads to the alignment of strategic growth plans, decisions, and portfolios.
Such systems bring three collaboration-critical areas together:
- The right innovation governance. It’s essential to implement a set of procedures that explicitly identify jobs that must happen before moving on to the next phase by creating transparent collaboration around those jobs. Rules of governance are partly about how you make good decisions. Who makes them? When do they make them? Why do they make them? What do they know? Who do they need to speak with? What information needs to be provided to them? A good governance structure recognizes and fosters the need for cross-functional collaboration. With these rules in place, you can make better, faster decisions because all stakeholders understand which decisions they need to make and who they need to involve in those decisions—with the data and information they need to make them.
- Clear, repeatable processes: Not knowing what to do next slows a project and interrupts collaboration. The most innovative companies have clearly-defined, repeatable processes for efficiently moving ideas toward launch and beyond. Their processes bring a cross-functional team together and guide that team to collaborate. The appropriate strategy for a given type of innovation depends on many factors like the company's size, resources, company objectives, the complexity of the product, market need, etc. But what’s critical is that after identifying an appropriate process, it is accessible to team members. Further, they should be able to work within the process without being burdened or slowed down. An exemplary process aims to speed up innovation, and if it doesn't do that, it's not an effective method. The right innovative collaboration tools will allow you to move if you find yourself in the wrong process. In this situation, you need to easily switch to a different process without losing collaboration and forward momentum.
- Efficient data management: Data is key to collaboration and decision-making, and you must make the right data visible at the right time to the right people. A common mistake is defining and requiring far more information than is actually necessary. Just like processes, data needs to be lean and visible. The right innovation management system allows users to take advantage of accurate data to adapt and respond quickly to market changes or new needs. A good rule of thumb is that only data necessary for project execution, collaboration or decision making should be included in an innovation system.
Collaboration doesn’t just happen—it requires meticulous planning and execution. In today’s business environment, where time-to-market and exclusivity are more important than ever, and business disruption is threatening the availability of time to work together, automating processes with innovation management systems is a must-have. Learn how Sopheon can help your organization simplify collaboration
For more insight into using gated processes to achieve cross-functional collaboration and more efficient innovation, watch this 3 part webinar series hosted by The AIM Institute and Sopheon.