How and Why You Need to Build an Idea Pipeline

Does your organisation have the right processes to support the next great idea?

Once an evaluation and selection framework is in place, aligning an “idea pipeline” with the project portfolio is crucial. Otherwise, your next star project might not get a chance to soar doomed or less-promising initiatives drain resources.

Successful products all begin with a great idea.

Yet, the idea itself is the first ingredient in a cocktail of factors contributing to a product’s success, including resource and talent management. The ability to capture new project development (NPD) ideas and prioritise their value based on organisational metrics, resources, strategic alignment and critical success factors is essential to developing an innovation pipeline.

A Systematic Approach

The first step in selecting the best NPD project ideas begins with a systematic approach to capturing data so all stakeholders can contribute to the project selection process. Building the right framework around product ideas allows companies to make well-informed decisions based on facts.

When developing this framework, the following elements should be considered:

Data Integrity

Data integrity is an integral part of validating product ideas and can significantly impact outcomes’ usefulness.

It is essential to enforce consistent parameters regarding information sources and measurement metrics to ensure data integrity. To produce reliable insights that truly reflect actual trends, organisations must prioritize creating robust frameworks for collecting and analyzing data more strategically. By establishing clearly-defined processes that guarantee sample validity and account for common sources of bias, companies can ensure optimal conditions for extracting valid conclusions from the gathered data.

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Clear Targets

Establishing specific targets that match the business objectives and customer needs is essential for driving successful product ideas within an organisation.

By ensuring the proposed project ideas are measured against corporate goals that are endorsed by key decision-makers and investors, organisations can accurately select the initiatives that are most likely to create value and generate desired results. This approach will ensure companies get the most out of their resources and have a much greater likelihood of promptly achieving meaningful aims.

Relevant Success Factors

Implementing a structured, quantitative process for evaluating new project ideas is key to a successful ideas pipeline.

Risk assessment scoring, ROI calculations, alignment with corporate strategy and priority ranking are necessary for accurately evaluating the proposed initiatives. By establishing these as standard criteria and basing evaluations on factual data, decision-makers can develop an unbiased vision of each opportunity and its ability to deliver meaningful business outcomes ultimately. Ensuring that clear metrics are in place will support the development of an effective idea management system that can help organizations realize their strategic goals.

Systematised Decisions

Drawing on insights from data, developing a standardized decision-making system is paramount to increasing the efficiency and efficacy of both ideation and execution.

Establishing a governance framework with clearly defined phases, milestones and approval mechanisms will provide the necessary structure to navigate basic business considerations and nuanced future state scenarios. Introducing a no-go strategy for projects that do not meet a unified set of criteria helps ensure impactful decision-making across teams with all relevant stakeholders in the review process. Our approach brings order to an often overwhelming ideas pipeline, creating an environment that enables strategic prioritization and sound investments.

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Alignment with the Portfolio

Once an evaluation and selection framework is in place, aligning the ideas pipeline with the project’s portfolio will be crucial in developing these new products.

Many organisations analyse their ideas pipeline in relation to external market conditions and often neglect the impact that new projects may have on active projects and internal resources. In light of this reality, a project and portfolio management (PPM) method allows an organisation to integrate the ideas pipeline into the entire project workflow. A comprehensive PPM strategy will ensure that idea proposals consider all the external and internal factors contributing to a complete project environment.

So, the ideas pipeline will reflect the chances for success with the understanding that the next “star” project can be fully supported by the people responsible for its delivery.

Balancing the Scales

A solid new product selection process demands a balanced ranking of all the relevant elements.

Successful products begin with an idea management process. It is not enough to just include all the necessary elements. As with a well-prepared meal, just the right amount of seasoning and ingredients will determine an idea’s success.

At the most fundamental level, project ideas must be treated as corporate investments where the portfolio is aligned with the business objectives. Furthermore, your portfolio needs to reflect your tolerance for risk and your ability to manage your investments (i.e. your project ideas pipeline). Your pipeline’s prioritisation, scoring and ranking will depend on business culture, stakeholder needs and the ability to make informed decisions on the information gathered.

To ensure that your ranking system will yield successful results, internal factors (e.g. available resource pool) and external considerations (e.g. market demands) need to be carefully calibrated to deliver the right mix of criteria to showcase your pipeline. When selecting your ranking criteria, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are your ranking metrics aligned with both stakeholder needs and market demand?
  2. Is your portfolio balanced by allowing for ranking ideas based on relative importance?
  3. Do you have enough visibility into your current resources and future abilities to assess your pipeline’s ongoing viability?
  4. Are you employing fact-based metrics, such as Return on Investment (ROI), Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Net Present Value (NPV), to assist in product selection?
  5. Does your selection of project ideas consider your current portfolio of projects?
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Most product development businesses agree that launching a product means selecting the right product at the right time with the right people.

Many businesses would differ in the path they choose to get the product to market. Although for some, timing or intuition may lead to success, for others, it may be a more formal method. In any case, most organisations agree that a systematic approach to monitoring NPD projects from concept to end of life is a wise move. The earlier you can identify whether a product has potential or is doomed for failure, the faster you can make money from the new product ideas or cancel them before real damage is done.

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