JUNE 2004--By racing to bring innovative new products to store shelves, developers of consumer packaged goods (CPG), such as food processors, fail to get the most out of their R&D investments, according to a white paper issued by Pittiglio Rabin Todd & McGrath (PRTM) Management Consultants (Waltham, Mass.). The study finds R&D spending in CPG companies typically represents l%-2% of revenues, compared with 8%-15% in high-tech sectors. CPG companies seldom regard product development as a cross-functional management process. However, PRTM believes the time is right for such a focus by CPG firms.

Augmenting similar aims with software has been the goal of Sopheon Corp. (Minneapolis). The company's efforts have resulted in a software solution that streamlines product development, while enabling users to make informed decisions about which products to fund or kill.

Automated Development Processes

Sopheon's Accolade software is a modular system that automates product development processes, while providing critical and strategic decision support. Its capabilities include assessment and management of ideas, process management, product portfolio management, resource planning, collaboration and knowledge-sharing, and food-industry specific access to external technology, market and competitive intelligence. In effect, the system enables the complete management of a product's life cycle from ideation to retirement.

Accolade is typically used cross-functionally across an organization. The software is not intended to replace accounting, client-relation management or supply chain management systems. Rather, data contained within these systems, such as the voice of the customer or manufacturing specifications, is integrated into Accolade for more comprehensive and strategic decision-making.

Development team members use the software daily to answer critical questions relating to market sizing, technical feasibility, project prioritization and execution.

The software provides executives high-level insight into project portfolios so that they can better assess what ideas to fund or not, and determine the strategic business effect projects in the pipeline will have on revenue and profitability goals. Those in process management use Accolade to manage the progress of teams, set and prioritize key project deliverables, assess at-risk projects in the pipeline, etc.

Making Decisions with Concrete

A “Gate Scorecard” helps the development team rate products coming into the developmental pipeline on each of six criteria: strategic fit and importance; product and competitive advantage; market attractiveness; synergies/leveraging of core competencies; technical feasibility; and reward to the company.

The scorecards also are incorporated into a dashboard that allows executives with portfolio management responsibility to easily monitor and evaluate their organization's portfolio. The dashboard includes analytical tools that can instantaneously show the effect of adding to, subtracting from, speeding up or otherwise adjusting projects and products within the overall portfolio.

A team member using Accolade can perform a preliminary technical assessment using a template unique to the food industry which incorporates considerations as specific as sensory profiles and shelflife expectations. In completing the template, the team member can access Accolade's Research Center, which acts as something of an online reference librarian to provide the user with patent, market, technical, regulatory, supplier and other information. If an answer cannot be found, the user can utilize Accolade's expert network, a field of over 1,700 different experts in over 30,000 different areas of science, business and technology.

Just over a year after implementing Accolade, JM Huber already has seen the net present value of the product portfolio in one of its business units increase by 400%. That same organization has significantly reduced the time it takes to complete project deliverables and documentation, saving the company hundreds of hours each year. Mott's has seen similar success, indicating that it has reduced time to market across its portfolio by 13%-14%, with even greater reductions on certain projects.

For more information:

Sopheon Corporation, Dayna Mills

952-851-7504, dayna.mills@sopheon.com