Front End Transfers of Digital Innovations in a Hybrid Agile‐Stage‐Gate Setting
Kati Brock, Elke Den Ouden, Fred Langerak and Ksenia Podoynitsyna
Originally published: October 16, 2020 (PDMA JPIM • Vol 37, Issue 6 • November 2020)
Read time: 45 minutes
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Digital innovations often follow a more fluid innovation process and, therefore, require different ways of managing the front end of innovation. Agile as alternative to established front end management practices is often suggested, potentially combined with Stage‐Gate, in what is called a hybrid Agile‐Stage‐Gate model, to reap the benefits from both. Implementing the hybrid model in the front end is however not sufficient for firms with separate Research and Development departments to succeed. In such organizations digital innovations still need to be transferred from Research, where the front end work on digital innovations takes place, to the Development department, where formal development actually starts. Yet, such front end transfers have been described as inefficient and ineffective. Realizing digital innovation front end transfers is likely even more challenging because of their fluid definition. In the absence of extant theory on front end transfers in such a setting, this research uses a case study approach to analyze the front end transfer experiences of the Research department of a firm in the lighting industry that is undergoing a transformation from traditional to digital lighting. The in‐depth analysis of triangulated data on eight front end projects shows that Research struggles to transfer digital innovations to Development, because transfer practices in terms of management, scope, and synchronization, turn out to be inherently challenging in a hybrid Agile‐Stage‐Gate setting. Specifically, the results reveal that each transfer practice plays an intricate role in either facilitating (i.e., transfer management) or inhibiting (i.e., transfer scope and synchronization) front end transfers of digital innovations. The discovery of these opposing forces has important implications for novel theorizing on the use of Agile in the front end of digital innovation, transfer practices from Research to Development in a hybrid setting, as well as for theorizing about digital innovation management.
- The hybrid Agile‐Stage‐Gate model encourages a collaborative instead of transactional approach to front end work on digital innovations.
- Digital innovation transfers are distinctly different from technology transfers and, therefore, require a re‐think of a firm’s existing innovation processes and performance measurements.
- Manager should take into account that there are three different transfer practices that either facilitate (i.e., transfer management) or inhibit (i.e., transfer scope and synchronization) front end transfers of digital innovations.
- Establishing champions across the important organizational interface of Research and Development is crucial in realizing front end transfers of digital innovations.