R&D Framework for Achieving Customer Delight

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If you are associated with a software service provider and have come across the customer comments such as following, you may want to read ahead and share your thoughts as comments:

The team is creating great software based on what we are asking them to do; However, they are not adding value in terms of suggesting new technologies (tools & frameworks) to optimize one or more existing business processes or suggesting better way of doing the business functions. 

The above is more common with software service providers who have been working on staff augmentation model and want to step up to become a strategic business partner of their customers by suggesting ways and means to optimize one or more business processes. Lets examine following framework for research & development which could be adopted to fuel innovation in the software development lifecycle:

  • Definition: It is important to define the following in relation with R&D initiative:
    1. What is the goal? The primary goal being “customer delight” could be achieved using following:
      • Optimize business processes with innovative technology-enabled solutions; This will directly impact the end customers. The entire team has to play a key role in this as one needs to explore new technologies (tools & framework), learn new design patterns etc. Some of the examples of how business processes could be optimized are following:
        • Save time for execution of overall business process
        • Automate the business process thereby reducing the human intervention
      • Optimize business processes by suggesting alternative way of doing business; This will directly impact the end customers. Business analysts needs to play a key role into this.
    2. What all ideas can become the R&D work/task item? Based on the goals defined above, ideas could be classified as following:
      • Ideas that optimize business processes using technology-based solutions; These ideas could look like some of the following:
        • Tools & frameworks: One could suggest on new tools and frameworks which could optimize the business processes
        • Design patterns: One could suggest on new design patterns related with business logic, integration, security, data storage etc.
      • Ideas that could suggest new process/workflows to optimize overall business function
  • People: It is important to understand who all will be involved in brainstorming of ideas and their execution? Following could be one of the model:
    1. Ideas from each team: Delivery managers could take the accountability of having one or more teams working under him share their ideas with their team leads who could come together to filter the ideas based on above guidelines. Once filtered, the team leads could then post the idea on a centralized repository which could be accessed by everyone including a dedicated R&D team.
    2. Dedicated R&D Team + Common Pool: There could be dedicated R&D/Architecture team which could take on ideas from idea repository, re-validate that idea as per the guidelines, and start execution. The dedicated R&D team could work with a common pool of engineers who are not yet working on any project (non-billable resources).
  • Processes: As mentioned in “people” section, the ideas are generated from each team and put into an idea repository. The dedicated R&D team takes on idea from idea repository, re-validates them, and work on the idea. The output of R&D task could be some of the following:
    • Tools & framework evaluation report
    • White papers
    • Code samples
    • Proof-of-concept
    • Training
    • Architecture & design validations

    Following diagram represents the overall process for execution of ideas and, the resultant deliverables:

    Research & Development Execution Process

    Research & Development Execution Process

  • Governance: It is equally important to govern the R&D initiative. Following could be some of the ways & means to govern the initiative:
    • Send out regular emails on different R&D initiative that is going on within the company
    • Call upon monthly/fortnightly meeting with delivery managers to discuss ways and means to improve the overall initiative.
  •  Funding: As research & development surely requires a dedicated team of minimum one-two architects/technical specialists (for a size of 100 employees), this needs to be considered as investment from senior management to hire these non-billable resources and get them work on research & development. Mind you that these kind of people are expensive as well. Additionally, there is needed a dedicated infrastructure (server boxes) for carrying out different activities. So, senior management must be ready to cough out some money for this initiative.
Ajitesh Kumar
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