One of the many epiphanies in business that I’ve been fortunate to experience has been understanding, distinguishing, and separating “Research & Development” from “Products & Services.” In my research, there were some new companies that lumped these responsibility areas into one out of the constraints and others because of a lack of knowledge.

In the Modern Enterprise Model, the People, Processes, Information, and Systems are tangible Contexts that operate in logical Responsibility Areas such as Products & Services or Research & Development. To read more , check out the book page.  It is important to distinguish Responsibility Areas to build the logical infrastructure of execution upon disciplined thought and action. All people and enterprises are limited by constraints. Ultimately the smallest micro-enterprises with a single staff member needs to understand and better leverage their limits.

  1. Constraints for People – Time & Energy
  2. Constraints for Enterprises – Time & Money

Today, the world is being transformed by open innovation in markets and business models in various industries as cataloged by  Henry Chesbrough. I reviewed and evaluated the ideas in his book “Open Business Models” recently and came away with a sense of vindication for my earlier work on separating concerns in business as we separate concerns in object oriented programming. By decoupling Research & Development from Products & Services and Sales & Marketing, it is possible to reach new heights in innovation internally and be able to leverage innovation from other sources.

Heretofore, we have considered the Research & Development projects as either being in “development” or not. Through painful internal change over the last year, we started to set better boundaries on these projects and began executing them with the same budgetary constraints and project management discipline as our client projects. Although these changes, initially unwelcome, have scaled our value creation by an order of magnitude, the next few changes I believe will revolutionize the way we conceive Research & Development altogether.

We set out a vision for Research & Development. You can read more on our Internal blog if you are a Client, while I work on incorporating this into next revision of the book. Here are the actions we took to create value from Research & Development

  • Distinguish “Research” as the activities focused on learning something new, gathering knowledge, conceptualizing an idea, or creating a prototype. Some example outputs of Research include but aren’t limited to a knowledge base entry, a prototype, or internal training.
  • Leverage publicly available Research & Development in the form of open source projects & frameworks, knowledge culled and prioritized through blogs.
  • Distinguish “Development” as the activities focused on delivering a working product or service. Some example outputs of Development include but aren’t limited to a working digital product, a new team, or even a new company.
  • Encourage “Research” and create fair time budgets for everyone to be able to contribute knowledge, experience, and innovation in whatever form they feel comfortable with but focused on specific problems.
  • Prioritize “Development” and execute on one project at a time (because we have constraints) with the explicit intent of creating value that helps execute and improve our Client Service. If a solution exists outside the firm, use it. Don’t reinvent the wheel. (This has been a favorite mantra at our firm for years.)

One of the projects we’ve been working on internally is “Asitchanges.Next” which is the next iteration of this blog.  In the Planning & Discovery phase of the project, as we were building out wire-frames in Balsamiq and creating Mind Maps in Xmind, I imagined that we’d use our open source portal product, “Appleseed,” to get the first MVP created. We would have been able to implement the 5 major components as modules but each of them would have taken a week or so to make.

Instead of fixating on this idea of creating new modules to support the features that we needed in Asitchanges.Next, I sought other existing open source projects that could help me iterate more quickly. After a couple of hours of research on Github, Codeplex, Google Code, and Sourceforge, I had identified about 5 candidate projects that could be integrated into Appleseed in about half the time if not quicker. The tangible result of leveraging other open source projects is that we now have a slightly different road map for our products which involve partnerships and inter-dependencies with other innovators in an open world.