Understanding the Technology Project Approval Process

LED light bulb
LED light bulb (Photo credit: kalleboo)

Many people thing that innovation is only a matter of creativity, this thinking can seem reasonable when we are talking in a general sense, or when we are talking about the innovation in little activities, but in large enterprises, creativity is not the mother of all battles.

Ideas are arising everywhere and every time but innovation is either a matter of thinking or a matter of doing. In a large enterprise, the number of people that can propose a new solution is higher, but the number of people that must be convinced to start it can be much higher than in a small one, and the number of people that do not want to change their working habits too.

Large enterprises have a lot of human and economic resources to make that the dream of a creative person can become true but the global management process of the company limits the possibilities to get it.

Innovative companies usually have some kind of informal path to move the ideas from the staff to senior management in order to be approved, when innovation management exists formally, there are formal paths to do it too. In both cases, ideas are nothing but a good beginning but there is not possible to make a decision with so little piece of information. The investment that can be involved in the development of a new product in a large company usually is high, and bank and shareholders would not accept a hunch as guarantee. Hunches are more useful at the casino that in a business.

Ideas must be turned into projects. Projects are a set of task linked among them with a certain number of resources assigned and an estimated cost. Projects limit the technical risk of an innovation and are necessary in order that any activity of certain entity can be approved in a well managed company.

Although creative people do not feel comfortable with a scheme of fixed task, projects are the reason why they can be paid, because in a business all activities are defined under a budget in order to preserve the company under control. The aim of a business company usually is to make money, and financial and sales departments can have more influence than development ones at the senior management level.

Projects are a step farther than ideas. Some of them can be full innovation projects, but others can be simply a research. This scheme proceeds from the scientific method, even although many innovations are not the result of a scientific research. Some centuries ago, science people distinguished between hypotheses and experiment design (project). Science could advance because this method reduced the technical risk of the activity and organize the acquired knowledge for further developments.

A new product from an innovation requires more than a project, it requires a business plan. Of course, we cannot know how many units of the product we will be able to sell, but we can estimate it. A forecast is not equal to have absolute certainty, but if it is done through a reasonably methodology it is a good way to think about the problems of introducing the product in the market before doing it.

With a business plan it is possible to make more effective decisions. In a large company, all products are selected following some scheme similar to this, although sometimes projects require more than a simple writing in a paper to be selected. Important activities usually are presented by the project manager to the decision makers. In that case, the innovation project manager must have the competences of a salesman too. This competence has not been very common among developers.

In order to makes things easier for developers, innovation managers can support developers with their business knowledge and experience where they exist formally.


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