Before moving on to the best ways to manage technical projects it is helpful to divide them into several categories. Many classification schemes exist that is the generally accepted breakdown is divide R&D and new business development projects into three main types.

Types, Categories or Horizons of R&D

The “Types, Categories or Horizons of R&D” figure shows attributes of the three main types or categories of R&D. To make sure the terms are clear Category 1 R&D is sometimes also referred to as Horizon 1 or incremental R&D. Category 2 R&D is also referred to as Horizon 2 or next-generation R&D. Finally Category 3 R&D is referred to Horizon 3, radical, or breakthrough R&D.

The purpose of making these distinctions is that management of technical projects varies depending upon which category they fall into. Category 1 projects generally include product and process improvements. They also include product line extensions. Implementation excellence is the driver for these types of projects. PERT and GANTT management methods have been shown to have the most productive best-practices for caring them out. For Category 2 projects which typically include new product and process developments, the best methods for caring them out include stage gate management methodologies. Category 3 projects are best carried out using fuzzy front-end methodologies. Because of the frequency that business needs new products in the business need to be different from competition most effort has been gone into understanding technical processes related to Category 2 programs. This will be addressed after a short section on Category 1 programs.