In my current position, I work across Europe helping my clients implement strategic business processes. I analyze clients’ product development and innovation processes and make recommendations to help them improve. Two tools that I often recommend using are roadmaps and scorecards. Both can be used to evaluate new initiatives, but at different levels of granularity.  A roadmap helps a company drive its portfolio of R&D projects in a specific long-term direction. For example, a roadmap may dictate that a portfolio should focus on products for China as a new market.

A scorecard, in turn, helps everyone evaluate innovation projects and new products in terms of the roadmap goals and other key metrics.  For example, a scorecard might look at which of the company’s numerous product opportunities targeted to China would be best for the company to pursue first.

Scorecards create a common language between different functions or departments within an organization -- especially between marketing and finance and engineering – so that representatives from each function can evaluate projects jointly, using the same metrics. For example, without scorecards, a person in finance might only consider capital costs, unit sales, and margins of different projects when evaluating projects. An R&D engineer, on the other hand, might evaluate projects only on technical performance metrics, such as heat tolerance. Those engineering properties have nothing to do with financial metrics, which is why a finance person’s assessment of prospective projects may be incomprehensible to an R&D engineer and visa versa.

Using scorecards, in contrast, lets the two groups speak the same language, provided that they have been trained to understand the metrics used in the scorecard. That is, individuals and managers must agree on what a score means before they can use scorecards to evaluate the feasibility and value of a project.

In this way, scorecards become a management tool. Managers or even the CEO can ask which project is being recommended for pursuit and can drill down into the scorecard to understand why it was ranked highly -- what dimensions led to its high value potential.

Used together, roadmaps and scorecards help guide a company’s innovation efforts and focus on the projects that will be of most strategic benefit to the company.

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