What We Liked
According to author Ron Basu, before writing this book he found that the subject of integration of R&D and project management specific to R&D was widely dispersed amongst a variety of sources such as different books, publications and manuals. Consequently, he felt that it was time to produce "a comprehensive, use-friendly and hands-on book which could be a single-source reference for project management tools and processes appropriate to R&D for all researchers, practitioners and students of R&D projects."
To set that stage, Ron first describes in Chapter 1 the differences between typical project management, research, development and Business as Usual (BaU) together with their respective backgrounds. For example, Research implies the acquisition of new knowledge, while Development implies the initiation of a new product. In these contexts, Project Management must be appropriately flexible by adopting a relevant set of tools and techniques especially given the wide range of sponsors and their primary requirements in the world of BaU.
At the end of Chapter 1, Ron posits four questions (paraphrased):
- What are the core concepts, challenges and opportunities related to R&D in BaU organizations?
- What are the processes, tools and techniques of PM that are relevant to R&D?
- How can a PM focus the talent of R&D people to deliver successful R&D projects?
- What is the way forward for contributing to the success of R&D initiatives, using relevant PM tools, techniques and success factors?
The book then sets out to answer these questions in considerable detail and depth in the chapters that follow. At the same time, the application of other project management functions, such as scope, quality, time, cost, risk and so on, as well as success, software, and R&D projects in particular, are also discussed in some detail. Chapter 10 presents four real-life case studies, complete with discussion questions at the end of each. Chapter 11 concludes the book with eleven recommended steps for Making it Happen.
One chapter we found of particular interest is Chapter 4, on the subject of R&D Project Life Cycle. In this chapter, Ron Basu presents a number of such "cycles" that we would much prefer to call more accurately as Product Life Spans. Examples include Archibald's six-phase comprehensive top-level project life cycle model; a Stage-gate New Product Development funnel; Product life cycle; a Research and Discovery project life cycle; a Product Design and Development life cycle for a pharmaceutical product, and so on.
The life spans of all of these so-called "cycles" proceed through time in one direction only. They are all different to some degree, and they all reflect the management and control requirements of the technical management of the evolving product or outcome. That is to say, reflecting the major technology of the intended product through their various stages of evolution. These are not the same as the control requirements of project management's project life cycle [span]. However, the stages of a product's technical life span must fit comfortably within the phases of a project life span, for the whole to work together for maximum effect and efficiency. Although not explicitly stated, we think the author has done a good job in making this relationship clear in all the cases discussed.
4. Ibid, Preface.
5. Ibid, pp 2-3.
6. Ibid, pp 21-22.
7. Potential readers might like to know that succinct answers to all four questions are provided under the heading Final Comments at the end of Chapter 11, pp 201-203.