As projects move from ideas to commercial success they do so by passing specific technical, manufacturing, sales, and marketing milestones. Passing these milestones does not necessarily happen in an orderly and timely manner. Sometimes a week or month will pass with little or no progress and other times many hurdles are passed easily.
One way for the Governing Team to see the project’s progress is to have the team map its progress as shown in the “Technology Project Tracking” figure. In this figure the elements of technical and manufacturing success expected to be passed, from the time the project starts through to its post commercial success, are put in order on the horizontal axis. On the vertical axis specific elements of sales and marketing success are also listed in increasing order. Thus technical/manufacturing activities or milestones are separated from the sales/marketing activities or milestones that are found in Stage and Gate or Lean/Agile documentation.
The project is tracked on a weekly or monthly basis by putting dots on the chart for each time increment that passes. A point is placed on the chart that represents the highest level of activity/milestone accomplishment for each axis. Lines connect each time point. Thus when things are going slowly, the dots are close together and when good progress is made the dots are further apart. This particular figure also helps the governing body determine if the team is balancing its technical progress with its business progress. The dots so connected create a unique innovation pathway for each project.
Projects creating an innovation pathway going more or less up the 45 degree line are on-track. Projects going up just one axis are unbalanced. Usually this happens when the project team is unbalanced with either technical our marketing personnel skills. In this case they play to their strengths and make good progress, but only in one area. The “Technology Project That is Off-Track” figure illustrates such a case. This example project is headed towards technical success but there are no customers being signed up to buy the new product! Such cases need advisory or governance team intervention and/or support, or should be killed.