Making Product Introductions More Strategic

Framework tackles earliest phases of product development projects

Burlington, MA — May 6, 2003 — Framework Technologies rolled out three new modules for its collaborative design and project management portfolio this week, extending its solution set to cover the earliest phases of product development projects and adding new tools to help project managers and executives track their project resources and ensure that their development initiatives are supporting the company's overall business goals.

Framework, a provider traditionally known for its collaborative product development solutions, last year began expanding its offering to include tools to manage a portfolio of product development and introduction projects.

As Framework sees it, large, global enterprises face major challenges in coordinating a portfolio of product development and introduction projects across various divisions, synchronizing the introduction processes across different functions within a given division, and ensuring that the projects ultimately support the company's business goals.

ActiveProduct 9.0 — released in September along with the ActiveProject, ActiveProcess and ActivePortfolio modules — was intended to help bring order to the chaotic mix of cross-functional activities involved in the product introduction process and to provide decision support for executives looking to manage a portfolio of product introductions.

The new modules released this week, ActiveCharter, ActiveResource and Portfolio Planning, address challenges surrounding strategic project planning and decision-making well before a project is started, with the goals of increasing cost savings and ensuring that companies focus on the right mix of projects.

Kevin O'Leary, Framework's director of product marketing, said the new modules are intended to take much of the "guesswork" out of deciding which projects to pursue. "Gathering information to decide which projects to pursue is difficult and expensive, but necessary, so people have tended to guess to some extent," O'Leary said. "That might have been fine in the 1990s, but not today, and these three new modules address that challenge."

ActiveCharter automates the capture of key information required for a project proposal, such as project goals and objectives, strategic alignment, resources required, proposed timeline and critical risks. Frequently this information is in static documents that must be re-entered for analysis and team collaboration; the new module allows this information to be aggregated and automated into a project dashboard, helping to facilitate proposal evaluation by letting managers and executives compare "apples-to-apples" as they look at different projects, O'Leary said.

ActiveCharter is integrated within the ActiveProduct and ActiveAEC solution suites that guide activities at the executive, manager and team levels, which Framework said could help accelerate project commencement and offer real-time snapshots of a project's performance against its original goals. The product also facilitates alignment between company objectives and project proposals by guiding each proposal to provide the key evaluation criteria that will be used to determine if the charter is in line with strategic goals, according to Framework.

ActiveResource is intended to help companies develop a resource allocation strategy that balances project selection, timing and individual resource needs with company resource planning. Companies can use the solution to determine how resources located across multiple geographic locations — such as capital, equipment, machine and process capacity, and human skill sets — correlate to both project requests and projects in the pipeline. They can then balance and align project selection for highest resource efficiency. Users can develop project timing and staffing level options to address project bottlenecks and to help them deal with unexpected events that arise during project execution.

Portfolio Planning gives executives another tool for evaluating projects before they get rolling, according to O'Leary. "We have done a good job of letting executives see where projects are at, whether they are on time and the typical day-to-day stuff," he said, "but for effective planning we needed to give executives the ability to slice and dice at the planning stage."

The new module enables executives to evaluate the impact of planned activities against company objectives and key performance criteria, as well as to understand the associated risks involved with each activity. Framework intends to solution to provide users with a view of how project scenarios contribute to each facet of business strategy by weighing projects against corporate objectives and potential risks, as well as their contribution to key metrics.

Integration with the ActiveProduct and ActiveAEC suites enables executives to communicate business priorities and objectives to project teams and review real-time performance as the teams execute on the company's strategic plan, according to the provider.

Andy Paskin, director of product engineering for Framework customer American Racing Equipment, said the ability to make good decisions about projects during the early proposal phase is a likely, albeit challenging area of savings. "Succeeding in today's dynamic market conditions requires a deep understanding and effective management of project and product costs," he said, adding "Framework's vision is clearly focused on solving these challenges."

ActiveCharter, ActiveResource and Portfolio Planning are due to be generally available at the end of June 2003. Pricing for the new modules varies based on the quantity of users and number of modules purchased, and O'Leary said the price tag could range anywhere from $40,000 to $600,000.