How to Organize Technology Growth for Your Business
The following steps outline an approach to mapping out your technology growth and product development projects. We recommend the use of a technology growth funnel, as shown in Figure 1. There are three primary benefits to using a funnel to identify your technology projects. First, by using a technology growth funnel you can visually see the state of various project and initiatives throughout the development cycle. Second, the funnel affords you the opportunity to see a progression of adjacent technologies in your product pipeline. For example, Technology 7 (layout stage) may be a byproduct of, or dependent on Technology 3 (validation stage). Third, a funnel can show the relative pace of one project or another over time. More detail about each phase is provided below.
- Draw A Funnel – The first step in creating a growth funnel is to create the funnel itself. In our example, we have broken up the funnel into five phases: concept, layout, development, validation and close out. Projects, technology research and other initiatives can be captured in the funnel in the appropriate stage. You may wish to add or remove stages as best fits your organization.
- The Concept Stage – The concept stage should be a place holder for real projects that you plan to pursue, or identify as necessary for your portfolio. While these initiatives may be needed at some point in time in the future, the organization may not have enough funding, people, or other resources to execute and develop the technology. However, it is still advisable to list key initiates in this stage in order keep them ‘on the horizon.’ In many cases, changes in the market or industry may suddenly place attention to items in the concept stage and bring them to the forefront for development.
- The Layout Stage – Depending on the industry you are in, the layout stage is the first stage of actual technology development. Products, technologies or other research initiatives listed in this phase are taken from concept and idea to a basic level of maturity. In the some industrial fields, this might be some initial 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) models. In the electronic and software fields, for example, this might be some initial circuit design or software coding. In all cases, the layout stage is intended to invest time and resources into defining some specifics of the technology, as well as formulating a basic design. You may have two or three possible designs, from which you down select to the design of choice. Looking at our example, note that Technology 9 was pulled from the concept stage and advanced ahead of Technology 8. The key outcome of the layout stage is a preliminary design review (PDR), which will obtain feedback from other members of the technical and product development teams.
- The Development Stage – The development stage is where a bulk of the resources are required and a major portion of costs are incurred. During the development phase, project, products and technologies are matured from the basic layout to a viable product and prototype. Projects listed here should reflect a certain amount of maturity, such as development testing, prototyping, trial runs, etc. Further, products and initiatives listed in this stage should have requirements matured and fully defined such that upon exiting the stage, the technology is expected to meet the desired objectives. Additionally, a validation plan should be created near the end of this phase for each technology, detailing how you intend to ensure the product meets design intent. The final milestone crossed to exit this stage is a critical design review (CDR).
- The Validation Stage – The validation stage is the portion of technology development during which prototypes and designs are tested, analyzed or even put into limited production to prove out the technology. Projects listed in this stage are expected to be undergoing some sort of prove-out exercise to demonstrate requirements are met and that no unintended functions or errors occur. If your project was less product centric and more research in nature, this stage would reflect testing any new algorithms or trends you identified in earlier stages of the funnel. You will note in our example that Technology 5 has matured past Technology 4. Again, the benefit of using a technology growth funnel is to help show the relative maturity or stage of your various projects.
- The Close Out Stage – The close out stage is the final phase of the technology growth funnel. Some industries refer to this phase as sustaining or design maturity. Projects and initiates classified as close out have fulfilled the validation expectations and may be undergoing minor adjustments to design, or product improvements before going into production. In most cases, projects listed here require little investment or resources to move out of the funnel and into production or release. By contrast, projects may reside in this state for some time, as the result of feedback obtained from low rate production or initial market entry.
Some Additional Tips:
- Identifying various milestones (such as design reviews) in the funnel to help communicate the various steps of technology development that suits your organization.
- Use color coding in labeling projects. Color coding can help distinguish between software and hardware activities, for example, or can help identify the industry for which the technology is intended.
- List the projects in each phase of the funnel in a prescribed order. Using our funnel as an example, Technology 4 at the top of the development stage may be higher in market potential, investment or priority to Technology 6.
Growth funnels can be highly customized to meet your needs. The underlying intent, though, is to create a visual map of your technology