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Managing technological innovation projects

Technological innovation is the whole process that turns ideas into income and is becoming strategically important for creating and offering customers new choice. Traditional project management is often used to deal with discrete parts of innovation processes and involves having substantially complete knowledge of all the inter-related activities needed for project achievement. Innovation projects, however, explore new ways to meet customer needs and it is prudent to frequently review output and benefits projections. Thus, traditional project management approaches do not appear to suit innovation projects. This thesis investigates how innovation projects might be best managed. The innovation project management practices of seven R&D purchasers and providers (1995) and six successful companies involved in the electronics, food and forestry sectors (1998) in New Zealand were investigated. Twenty-three in-depth, partially structured interviews with project and programme managers explored how they were held accountable. Every manager considered their current project management arrangements could be improved and all were searching for alternatives. Their needs and desires were examined and a new generic approach called the Time-block Innovation Project Management System (TIPS) was conceptualised to meet current practice shortfalls. TIPS uses Microsoft Excel, a common spreadsheet software package as its implementation base. TIPS differs from traditional project management in ten ways: • TIPS recognises achievement not activities • Project achievement goals are synchronised to the business calendar • Projects always start now and always finish when benefit (income) is received • Projects are monitored and controlled to maximise delivery of currently estimated future benefit • All past project cost and effort is considered as invested in new knowledge • TIPS projects are regularly re-planned from a zero base • Each project is uniquely ranked • Resource allocation is done by empowered staff • TIPS acknowledges, quantifies and standardises risk estimates • TIPS is formatted for convenience and practical use. Original interviewees were presented with a description of TIPS (1999) for their comment on potential benefits and requirements for implementation. Most respondents thought TIPS appeared to have several advantages, but six specifically advised that TIPS would need to be demonstrated on “real” projects before their organisation would consider using it. Finally, a three-month pilot trial was run (2000) implementing TIPS on three projects in each of one of the original R&D provider companies and electronics/manufacturing companies. Action research was used to simultaneously refine and implement TIPS, and to determine its potential usefulness and value to the companies. Participant managers indicated that project management information collected by TIPS was adequately comprehensive and very useful. Participants agreed that TIPS was better than existing arrangements at drawing early attention for corrective action. One-third of the participants thought TIPS might be better implemented in dedicated software. One company, six project managers and five technical managers rated TIPS methodology very highly. The second company rated the value of implementing TIPS as moderate. Respondents considered TIPS could be implemented in their companies within 12 months. It is recommended that TIPS’ user interface be improved and full implementation tried.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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