Over the last 20 years, I have been learning about the vastness and richness of technology management, how far and how sophisticated it has been developed by companies global and local, small and big. However, most of this work is in pockets, developed more of an art form than management science and thus not large scale practiced. While all companies are managing technology in some formats, only a few companies use a comprehensive model framework for technology management.
While starting JamBuster's team for outsourcing in 2004, we first started looking at applying a technology management framework to form the team. In 2007, when we were to build an 80 people captive for a North American telecom leader, the question of technology management framework showed up again. But the need of technology management framework became even louder when we started to focus on developing our own software product portfolio. Trying to answer these questions, led us to develop a simpler framework for software product company. However as we started to apply it, it became clear that we may have stumbled upon a more generic framework that lends itself to all complex product technology management.
JamBuster Technology Management Framework (JBTMF) has four elements:
Simply said, Technology Strategy is a statement of how a company wants to support its marketing focus through its technology efforts. The technology strategy is the first element in the technology management model. It is the very first question, a company must answer to develop its technology framework. It is the key element in that it is the base that will guide all other three elements. To appreciate the impact of technology strategy on the other elements, let us look at an example of how different companies in the same pharmaceutical market can have very different technology strategies.
For a pharmaceutical startup, technology strategy could be to develop small molecule drug candidates for anti-cancer, around some research they have purchased from a medical university. For an established pharmaceutical giant, the strategy may be to partly develop its own drug candidates but mostly to buy such drug candidates from startups. For generic manufacturers, the strategy will be to develop generic drug copies of the proven drugs.
Thus different companies focus their technology efforts differently, based on their competencies, perceived advantages and disadvantages, and marketplace understanding and presence.
To achieve this all important corporate technology strategy, organizations need the correct mix of people, who will ensure that through research and development choices, these strategies will be achieved. At JamBuster, we like to call this correct team mix - the Dream Team!
People with complimentary competencies (education or training) and knowledge base (gained through work experience) form the Dream Team. To see how different technology team compositions are required to successfully achieve technology strategy in the same market and broad technology, let us go back to earlier pharmaceutical R&D example.
For the start-up, to make new novel molecules, alchemists (synthesis chemists who think out-of-box) who are molecule synthesizers will be crucial. Along with such expertise, an analytical chemist with capability to come up with new analytical techniques for newer chemistry will be required. For the established giant, an R&D team experienced with taking a drug candidate through FDA trials will be needed.
For the generic manufacturer, synthesis chemists with strong knowledge of functional group-activity will be required, as they need to start from a known molecule and change chemistry just enough that new molecules are formed, which are beyond the patent files of the pharmaceutical giant but near equally effective without introducing any new abnormal functionalities. With these different key skills, each of above companies will need different compositions of R&D teams. Thus technology strategy truly dictates the Dream Team composition.
Once the Dream Team is known, essentially, one has a recruitment plan for a newly formed company or a division. So the next step is to recruit these people and retaining them once on-board.
Project Portfolio & Resource Management:
Based on commercial objectives and technology strategy, a portfolio of technology portfolio can be prioritized and then loaded with dream team resources. This is the very essence of technology management, in the sense, it is these projects that the dream team will work on, how the technology is prioritized, developed, delivered, and deployed. These projects will involve technology screening, development, scale-up, decisions on whether to buy or build, trials, etc... Once again, project portfolio and resource loading will be based on technology strategy, along with the marketing priorities.
Best Practices and Work Processes:
When a company is spending $1MM or $1B, to achieve maximum velocity, it must at any given time have maximum alignment of its team. Exactly which practices and processes should be followed, will depend upon the technology strategy.
For example, for the start-up, the best practices will focus on new molecule screening for efficacy - higher throughput screening research focus. For the established giant, the focus will be on ensuring FDA compliant trial related efforts -the technology strategy is get FDA nod for either bought or internal lead candidate molecules by going through human testing. For generic drug makers, the focus will be equally on FDA compliance and on manufacturing practices.
Best practices and well defined work processes help the Dream Team with visibility of next steps, format of delivery and decision making processes, and thereby improve velocity of execution. While sometimes this creates feelings of additional burden, just think what kind of chaos will happen if people don't follow driving rules on roads. A mature work process creates a useful roadmap while guiding the team through prior knowledge in similar situations, thereby saving the company from rediscovering the same wheel many times.