Product development can be divided into various project phases. Each phase harbors issues that hinder the conversion of the original idea into a market-ready product. For example, the lack of a complete overview of all planned and suggested projects complicates the initialization phase.
During the planning phase, incomplete specifications can endanger success. A new product has to meet various requirements. First, it must offer the needed functions. For example, an MP3 player should have sufficient storage space and a display that shows titles. Second, a new product must meet critical success factors. A product like an MP3 player should have a multilingual user interface. Third, companies need to examine the contextual and market conditions to avoid jeopardizing the success of the project. Such conditions include the costs of manufacturing a product, the existence of competing products, and the relaunch of a product. They should also consider the strategic orientation of the entire product portfolio. Finally, they have to make a comprehensive estimate of the time, costs, and capacities required to produce a new product.
In the development and market introduction phases, unplanned changes to the project’s scope or unexpected events (like delays or resource bottlenecks) can have a devastating effect. That’s why the focus is on key figures like project progress or costs during these phases. Without an examination of these figures across the entire portfolio and in the context of the company’s strategic direction, the options to correct errors are limited or are undertaken too late.
A central view of product innovation
Interplay between SAP xRPM and cProjects, which are part of the SAP Product Lifecycle Management (SAP PLM) application, provides visibility into a product portfolio, product ideas, and development projects. For the innovation process, the software collects relevant information on ideas, product initiatives, and projects in one place to ensure communication and that all stakeholders – from the board to project team members – have access to the same information. Data comes from the enterprise resource planning (ERP) backend and from analytical applications. This approach provides a constant view of costs and helps to orients projects to a company’s business strategy. And it enables monitoring of rules, standards, and binding procedures.
The new releases, SAP xRPM 4.5 and cProjects 4.5, enhance the scenarios supported by both products and extend them with important functions. The most important innovations include better decision flow management, enhancements in resource management, and the integration of SAP xRPM with cProjects.
To map the individual phases of product development, SAP created product initiatives that represent all processes and can be used to develop a market-ready product from an idea. They also include projects outside of actual product development: marketing planning and packaging design, for example. In particular, product initiatives also contain the data that helps make decisions that affect individual development and project phases.
For example, gates at the end of project phases can collect critical key performance indicators (KPIs) to make a “go” or “kill” decision. The data is available to various users in the company: innovation, project, and portfolio. Reports on project status and KPIs can be created from the product initiatives (from the bottom up) and from the portfolio view (the top down). The software also collects status and scheduling information from the bottom up.
The same perspective for project and portfolio managers
SAP xRPM 4.5 and cProjects 4.5 combine the various perspectives of project and portfolio management on individual project steps for an overall view, providing horizontal and vertical integration. Horizontal integration synchronizes decision-point information and phases, status information, detail and environmental information, and authorization between portfolio and project management. Vertical synchronization in portfolio management links initiatives and portfolios with financial and capacity planning and with global data and status. Users can decide if the portfolio element or the project should lead during the course of a project.
SAP has also made enhancements to resource management. Searching for resources in cProjects has been simplified and has a greater scope. For example, users can now display a graphical hit list when searching for resources and assign the resources to projects. Checks determine if the available resources meet requirements for availability, qualifications, and location. The software displays available resources; the best options appear first in the list.
cProjects 4.5 provides a monitor that displays the structure of several projects for better project controlling. It is accessible from the project dashboard, uses detailed filter options, and gives users read access to project details.
cProjects can also handle projects according to Six Sigma methods. A project charter defines goals and uses roles from Six Sigma, like champion, master black belt, black belt, and green belt.
At the end of 2007, SAP xRPM 4.5 and cProjects 4.5 will go into ramp-up. The new releases are an additional step in comprehensive product life cycle support with SAP Product Lifecycle Management.