For companies, success in life science product development does not mean completed development of a single product, or even successful commercialization of a product. Likewise, triage of one product development project does not equal failure. Successful product development lies in product development operations which best contribute to the success of the company. For any life science product development project, or for product development operations as a whole, projects must be evaluated for four key factors: value, strategy, balance, and resource availability.
Value is the most obvious factor by which to evaluate a product development project. There are many metrics by which to measure project value, such as net present value (NPV), expected commercial value (ECV), Productivity Index (PI) and a host of others. Our favorite metric is slightly different – We take the NPV of expected future profits, divide that by the NPV of project costs, then multiply by the probability of success. Note that for projects that are in progress, only future costs are considered. Money already spent can’t be recovered, so it is effectively irrelevant. Value, while very important, should not be the only thing considered. If your company is evaluating projects by value alone, you are likely making some poor decisions and not realizing it.
Strategy is crucially important in selecting life science product development projects. Companies must determine how the product will fit in with their greater strategic direction. A project that does not fit with the company’s strategy can shift focus away from more important areas, both within and outside of the context of product development.
Bioscience companies should also have a balanced portfolio of product development projects. Balance comes into play in many forms: long-term projects vs. short-term projects, projects with higher probabilities of success vs. those with higher potential returns, projects that are a close fit with corporate strategy vs. projects that are more loosely aligned, products that will protect markets vs. products that aim to expand the company’s market, etc. Too little product portfolio balance, either by too little diversity or too much, can increase risk.
Last but not least, life science product development must take into consideration resource allocation and availability. If an otherwise attractive project will hit a bottleneck because of insufficient resources, it may be more effective to begin another project first which better addresses current and projected resource availability.
In order to be successful, companies need to look at life science product development at a high level, ensuring that not only is each product right for the company, but all product development projects taken as a whole represent the best mix of projects for the company in terms of value, strategy, balance, and resource allocation. While many companies will rush to declare success based on individual projects, lasting success will come from a product development selection process that takes into account multiple factors and is geared to improve the company’s performance over a long term.