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Whether you’re licensing a new product or trying to get your licensor to incorporate your new products into their portfolio, you’ve felt the pain of trying to get two companies from different industries, with different expertise, different processes, different values…yadda, yadda, yadda…to come together in order to get it done.

Innovating new products in a licensed relationship is even more complicated and fraught with pitfalls and innovating within.  But don’t despair – there is a methodology that can cut through the added layer of complexity.

With a little tweaking, the Stage-Gate Product Innovation Process created by Robert G. Cooper and Scott J. Edgett, is an incredibly effective tool to help navigate this challenging terrain.

The first thing to know about Stage-Gate is that work gets done in Stages, which advance the team to the next Gate, or decision point.  Each Stage is cross-functional (R&D, Marketing, Finance, etc.), with each specialty working in parallel on their key activities to increase the speed at which you can move through the process.

At each Stage, each function gathers the critical information the entire team needs in order to manage risk and make careful decisions. Stages are incremental and therefore, costs and resources are committed at each step. As a result, there are no multi-million dollar, year-long R&D studies that go sideways.   There are 5 Stages:

  1. Scoping Ideas
  2. Build Business Case
  3. Development
  4. Testing and Validation
  5. Launch

Gates are where Go/No-Go and prioritization decisions are made. You can imagine multiple projects moving through the process. At each “gate,” or decision, the priorities can be reset so that a particular project gains or loses resources. The Gates are focused on three fundamental issues:  (1) quality of execution, (2) business rationale, and (3) the quality of the action plan.  In other words:

  • Can we be world-class in delivering this?
  • Does this align with the revenue, brand, and other company objectives?
  • Are we getting the critical information out of each stage that we need to have a detailed, achievable action plan?

Next time – Step 2:  Was that idea in-bounds or do we need to pause for a replay?

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