Frost & Sullivan’s Growth Team Membership™ (GTM) recently completed its 2012 survey of R&D/Innovation and product development executives in North and South America. The executives were asked to identify their most pressing challenges for 2012. GTM will focus its best practices research to address the prominent issues identified in the survey.
According to the 2012 survey results, R&D executives continue to wrestle with portfolio management. Specifically, R&D executives need to prioritize innovation projects, balance the value and risk of the portfolio, and allocate budgets across a wide range of project categories. Respondents also struggle with two other persistent issues: (1) identifying breakthrough ideas and (2) integrating inputs from internal stakeholders (e.g., Sales and Marketing) with portfolio planning.
The survey reveals differences in challenges between different business models. For example, the key challenges for R&D executives in B-to-B companies are generating technology road-maps for portfolio planning and managing an open innovation process. In contrast, their peers in B-to-C companies are challenged by securing buy-in for promising innovations with senior management and streamlining the product development process to reduce costs.
The survey asked respondents to “root cause” their top challenges by indicating if they stem from issues with staffing, process, technology/systems, or strategic alignment. By and large, R&D executives attribute their challenges to understaffing. Fortuitously, staffing and budgets are expected to increase in 2012. Ironically, though respondents stress the importance of driving breakthrough innovations, short-term or incremental projects account for the majority of the 2012 budget increase.
Given the potential of open innovation (OI) to tap emerging technologies, survey respondents were asked about their use of OI. The majority of respondents (58%) apply OI approaches to their product development process. When asked about the role OI plays in product development, respondents report using OI for ideation generation and screening. However, respondents in B-to-C companies are more likely to use OI throughout the product development process than their B-to-B peers. The composition of respondents’ OI teams varies by business model. Respondents within B-to-B companies employ small, dedicated open innovation teams, while R&D executives in B-to-C companies use part-time technology scouts.
While most R&D organizations engage in OI activities, R&D executives still struggle with implementation: establishing an effective OI process, garnering resources, and collaborating with partners. Respondents in B-to-B companies are focusing on developing a method to measure the ROI of OI activities, while their peers in B-to-C companies are endeavoring to establish a structured process to test the feasibility of idea submissions.
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Written by Holly Lyke Ho Gland
Holly is the research lead for the Growth Team Membership™ (GTM) program. Holly identifies and profiles best practices that address the main challenges faced by the leadership in key functions that support the CEO in driving growth strategies. Since joining Frost & Sullivan in 2008, Holly has developed Best Practice Guidebooks for executives in Corporate Strategy, Corporate Development, R&D, Market Research and Competitive Intelligence. In addition to her best practices work, Holly manages GTM’s annual priorities surveys of senior executives within Marketing, Corporate Strategy, Sales Leadership, Corporate Development, and Innovation/R&D. Prior to joining Frost & Sullivan, Holly worked for three years at Sam Houston State University. There she was an instructor and a research assistant on research projects analyzing public perceptions of natural resource management in natural gas, power and water.