Interdisciplinary Collaboration Can Help Drive Product Success in the Food and Beverage Industry

round table meeting
Promote interdisciplinary collaboration and avoid business unit silos to make your new product successful.
Image source: Flickr user Abhisit Vejjajiva

I’m not a big fan of committees and meetings.  Sure, their intent is genuine and worthwhile. But if you’ve ever sat on a committee, you know how difficult it can be to stay on task and get something (anything!) done.

One particularly challenging personal situation was when I was working on the submission of an academic paper with two equal-contribution co-authors.  Following the completion of our experiments, we started to organize the content of the paper, working on drafts and revisions.  We met for three hours every week on our own, and for an additional hour with our boss. By the end of the process, I dreaded our meetings so much that I would actually experience queasiness when walking into the conference room.  I genuinely liked each person on a personal level, and everyone was extremely intelligent and hardworking.  But we all had different opinions about how to best present our data and prepare a manuscript for submission.One co-author, a Japanese surgeon, was very concerned with having the perfect data; I, an American biochemist, was concerned with clarity and purpose; our other co-author, an American cancer biologist, would rework a sentence fifteen times until it sounded just right. Once we threw my opinionated boss from France into the mix, and it was nearly guaranteed that we would never come together on the final product!

A year later, our manuscript was accepted to Nature Biotechnology, one of the top journals in biotechnology research, which requires a strenuous review process. So what made us successful at our manuscript submission (other than great data)?  I believe it was the interdisciplinary collaboration that produced such a great product. We had so many different perspectives that we were able to anticipate the expectations of the reviewers and generate a product that they would want.

New product development follows a similar process.  If the market research department of a food and beverage company determines a certain product to be a worthwhile investment and sends the plan over to the R&D department, how can R&D be sure to create a product that matches the model that market research designed?  New products have a failure rate of 45% on the high end, and 25% on the low end.  No matter which end you come in on, those odds aren’t very heartening. In order to improve product success rates, food and beverage companies should adopt an interdisciplinary collaboration approach to new product development and avoid business unit silos.

Silos
Business unit silos may prevent information-sharing across departments.
Image source: Originalgum via Wikimedia Commons

That means that departments should work together on all stages of the new product development process to ensure the final product meets the needs and wants of the consumer. The Accelrys Notebook was designed with collaboration in mind. In addition to being an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), it is also an excellent tool to promote interdisciplinary collaboration between your market research and R&D departments.

Dead end of new product
Don’t wait until the end of the new product development process to determine if your product meets design expectations.
Image source: Vaikoovery via Wikimedia Commons

As your R&D department maintains a digital record of their progress, your market research department, as well as managers from both departments, can access development progress in real-time.  The ELN can be accessed by approved users from anywhere in the world, eliminating barriers to data sharing. In order to keep everyone in the loop and on-task with a project, your company can utilize digital signatures within workflow processes so that users can sign-off at certain steps in product development. That means that there should be no surprises with the end product. The ELN’s powerful search function makes it easy for even non-scientific personnel to locate important information. User and project administration features allow administrators to apply specific user access rights and privileges in order to keep a full audit trail of any administrative changes.

At Accelrys, we design products that make collaboration easier for your company. Visit the Accelrys website to find out how our products can help increase interdisciplinary collaboration at your firm.

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