Dutch courage

A Fonterra partner turns to Accolade for innovation
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Photo New Zealand / Mike Heydon

A Fonterra partner turns to Accolade for innovation

When you’re this big, it pays to take a serious approach to product innovation. Campina, a ¤4 billion Dutch dairy cooperative and Fonterra partner, is a European leader in consumer and value-added dairy products. It has innovation centres in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, which are charged with developing research-based products to broaden its international appeal, and its recent joint venture with Fonterra will boost its role in the pharmaceutical industry.

However, in 2008, when its executives took a close look at the company’s product portfolio, they found many resources were being allocated to low-value, incremental enhancements of existing products. Only ten percent of the products under development were considered ‘radical’ innovations—not enough to enable Campina to meet its growth targets. A fresh approach to new product development was required.

It turned to innovation specialist Sopheon, whose Accolade software is used by multinationals worldwide for managing innovation through a process called Stage-Gate.

Lacklustre innovations

Campina had implemented the Stage-Gate product development methodology across all three innovation centres; but the resulting innovations were lacklustre. A key problem was thought to be a lack of coordination. Each centre was using the Stage-Gate process differently and had its own preferred tools for managing product development. Product data was stored in multiple locations, making it difficult for executives to find and retrieve the information needed to make good decisions about projects in the pipeline.

It’s a process

Campina decided to implement a single, clearly defined innovation process across the company. One key goal of the process initiative was to strengthen management of the company’s product portfolio. The plan was to create a centralised repository for product innovation and portfolio data that would link and consolidate information from the many different software applications being used across the enterprise.

Bringing together data from these systems would give executives the full range of information they needed, for instance, to determine the business potential of proposed projects and predict their impact on the value of the product portfolio. Resources could then be assigned to the projects with the greatest commercial promise.

The company appointed Dr Michael Erdl, director of R&D and quality assurance at its largest innovation centre Campina Innovation, to identify and evaluate software applications capable of supporting its data consolidation, process automation and portfolio management goals. After a comprehensive review of ten possible solutions, Campina chose Sopheon’s Accolade system. Reasons for its selection included Accolade’s strong alignment with Stage-Gate and the software’s portfolio management capabilities.

The results

In implementing Accolade, Campina deployed a cross-functional working group with representatives from R&D, quality assurance, marketing, finance, operations and purchasing. The Campina team worked with Sopheon’s business consultants to configure Accolade so that it precisely matched the company’s process requirements, setting the stage for enterprise-wide deployment. Approximately 380 users across Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Russia and the US are now using the software to collaborate on new product ideas.

For the first time, we have visibility over our complete development pipeline and can make adjustments as required

—Michael Erdl

Because product innovation and portfolio data from across the company are now accessible in a centralised repository, Campina’s R&D teams and executives can easily compare projects to identify those that most closely align with strategic business objectives. The Sopheon software has also made it possible for the company to systematically perform risk/reward analysis across its portfolio, resulting in a better balance between investments in innovative new offerings and spending on line extensions.

“Accolade enables us to more objectively evaluate our development pipeline and to approach product innovation with greater rigour,” says Erdl. “One of the most important changes is that we are wasting fewer resources on projects that would have been killed at later stages of development. We have more project transparency than ever before, allowing us to make better product investment decisions much earlier in the process.”

In summary, Accolade has helped Campina improve project transparency across the organisation to support strategic go/kill decisions about proposed new products; strengthen cross-functional communication and collaboration by using a single, disciplined process for new product innovation; and decrease time-to-market and increase new product success rates.

“For the first time, we have visibility over our complete development pipeline and can make adjustments as required,” says Erdl. “We’re able to determine—practically at a glance—the impact a proposed new product will have on the entire product portfolio. We consider Sopheon a strategic partner that has allowed us to overcome a common challenge for many fast-moving consumer goods companies today: creating a balanced portfolio of winning new products and bringing them to market more quickly.”


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