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INVENTOR'S CHECKLIST
THE PROCESS

DO YOU KNOW HOW TO MANAGE RISK AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR IDEA?

The focus in Modules 1 through to 8 has been on gathering information that will help you identify the commercial potential of your idea. The aim of this module is to help you develop and put in place a process to manage your activities in order to move forward your idea.

Treating the idea as a project will allow you break the journey from concept to launch into smaller, manageable project phases or work packages with distinctive activities and objectives. This will help you monitor, evaluate, control and plan activities as well as risk.

Each project needs a project manager to drive it forward. Depending on who is on your team, it would be either yourself or a team member who takes on this role.

PROJECT MANAGER

WHAT IS PROJECT MANAGEMENT?

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to carry out projects efficiently and effectively. It brings a unique focus shaped by the goals, resources and the schedule of each project.

WHAT DOES A PROJECT MANAGER DO?

As a Project Manager you will:
  • Define and agree the roles, responsibilities and deliverables of the project.
  • Design project control mechanisms.
  • Plan the project.
  • Identify and allocate the required resources (time, money, people, equipment etc.) for the development of your idea.
  • Manage the project scope.
  • Manage and report on progress.
  • Be accountable for quality.
  • Reward and motivate your team.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD PROJECT MANAGER?

The following are some characteristics that help make a good Project Manager:
  • Good planning. This will help ensure that work is completed on time and within budget. It’s important to have a clear action plan, detailing who’s responsible for what, what work is required, and when it needs to be delivered.
  • Clear communication. It is important that everyone on your team knows what’s expected of them – particularly in terms of responsibility for deliverables. Good communication equally applies to work undertaken with sub-contractors; you should be aware of all aspects of the project’s progress at all times.
  • Good leadership. If working with a team you need to have good leadership qualities to motivate, inspire and support the team in undertaking activities.
  • Managing change. While planning is very important, it is important to remember that plans may need to change and therefore you need to be flexible in adapting your plan.

DEVISING A PLAN AND MANAGING RISK USING THE PHASE-GATE PROCESS

"IN PREPARING FOR BATTLE I'VE ALWAYS FOUND THAT PLANS ARE USELESS, BUT PLANNING IS INDISPENSIBLE" - DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

An estimated 46% of the resources invested by companies in the conception, development and launch of new products go on projects that do not succeed; either failing in the market place or never making it to market.

The Phase-Gate Process is a project management process for managing the risk involved in developing a product. It allows you to monitor, evaluate, control and plan the development process. This is done b breaking down your project into smaller, manageable Project Phases.

Typical Project Phases are:
  • Idea generation and screening
  • Scoping
  • Building the business case
  • Development
  • Testing and validation
  • Launch


Please note that depending on your idea, the individual phases relevant to you may be different and in a different order. However, this is the most common product development process.

Each Phase is followed by a Gate. The aim of the Gate is for you to assess what you have achieved in that preceding phase and make the decision on whether to move forward (GO), make changes (HOLD) or terminate the project (KILL).

In order to make these decisions you have to plan ahead and define in advance for each Phase:
  • Milestones - What is it that you have to achieve?
  • Resources – What do you require in terms of people, materials, equipment, money etc?
  • Timeframe - How much time will you need?
  • Decision making criteria:
    • At what point would you GO ahead with your project?
    • At what point would you put the project on HOLD and make necessary changes
    • At what point would you have to terminate or KILL the project
At the end of each Phase, at the Gate, the project manager has to decide on whether to 'GO', 'HOLD' or 'KILL' the project based on the criteria set out in the beginning.

Imagine a computer game. In order to move the next level you have to achieve certain targets, for example collecting a number of gold coins. You are usually limited in terms of resources, for example gadgets you can use and special moves. There’s usually also a time limit for each level.

At the beginning of the level you will know how many gold coins you have to collect before you can move to the next level. Your aim will be to collect the gold coins using the resources your have in the timeframe given to you.

If you manage to collect the required amount, all is fine and you can move on 'GO'. However, if you fail, you have to decide whether to try again using maybe a different strategy, basically putting it on 'HOLD', or give up, 'KILL'

The game developers will have determined how many gold coins you have to collect in order to move on. However, if you fail to collect enough gold coins, it is down to you to decide at what point you will try again and maybe change your strategy or at what point you will give up (and use a cheat code – unfortunately, there are no cheat codes for commercialising your idea!).

EXERCISE 1 - PLANNING AND MANAGING RISK

Exercise Template (Download)

It is important for you to understand what Phase you are in, what you need to accomplish in order to reach the next Phase, how you are going to do it, and what you will do if things don’t go according to plan.

This exercise will help you think about the different aspects you need to consider when planning ahead and ensuring that risk is managed effectively.

a) Determine what Phase you are in at the moment and what the subsequent Phases will be. Our template asks for three Phases but there may be more in your case. Adapt the template as required and use the list of typical Project Phases as a guide but bear in mind that these are just examples.

b) Think about what you want to achieve in each Phase. These will be the success factors.

c) Identify the activities which you have to undertake in order to achieve the success factors.

d) What resources do you require in order to undertake the activities and achieve the success factors?

e) Set realistic timeframes for accomplishing the activities and achieving the success factors.

e) Set specific targets for each GATE which must be achieved in order to GO ahead with the project.

f) In case that targets are not met, determine when you would put the project on HOLD and when you would have to KILL it, taking into account success factors as well as rewuired resources and timeframes.