The journey to automating reporting for your new product process and portfolio may be compared to a backpacking journey up a mountain.  The first applicable business principle is: Remove any and all unnecessary baggage, packing only what is necessary for the journey.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Have you ever been backpacking? Have you struggled with the items you were packing thinking “I may need this” or “it may rain” or “what if…?”  The stress builds and the packing becomes cumbersome. Eventually, after accounting for all possible situations, the backpack gets so heavy that you decide to start all over again.

Today, many process and portfolio managers are struggling with the sheer volume of reports. Questions remain regardless of whether the reports are in the form of documents, spreadsheets, forms, templates, worksheets, or charts.  Which reports are essential? Is a “slippage” report more important than a “stage duration” chart? Should we capture process or financial metrics? Some of our clients have designed over 500 metrics and 100 reports in their system, when in reality they use less than 25 reports year over year.

For example, the CTO of a global medical device company once said to me: “We produce all these colorful portfolio charts and reports, but the senior executive board never takes any decisions to stop

[kill] projects.”

This CTO was stressed out and I knew that several dimensions were at play in this scenario. However, here are three things that might have saved the CTO the pain he was experiencing:

Specify what key decisions you plan to make and necessary key metrics.  Including a key metrics design (that can be expanded over time) and a flexible reporting tool bring increased sustainable value. Furthermore, it helps you focus only on key decisions and prevents too many reports. This assures the reports suit the specific needs of the executive audience.

Ensure data quality and reliability of reports. They often say “garbage input, garbage out.”  Consider where the data originates and collection methods used.  Is the data input manually for the purpose of producing the new product portfolio report? Is the data produced from an existing application and then manipulated for the report? Does the data emanate from an idea to launch NPD process and portfolio system?

Define actions to be taken based on the information in the reports. For example, while you may clearly think a project needs to be discontinued, but yet believe that the investment has been far too significant to stop the project.  Perhaps you feel that this type of decision is “above your pay grade.”

By considering these three practices, your reports can help by providing actionable information and assist in making the right decisions. You can feel confident that you are not throwing good money after bad and will have definitive data to support decisions.

Much like backpacking, when selecting reports to help automate your new product process and portfolio it is best to remember that “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”  (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

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