At all stages of R&D, it is important that the institution construct and manage its portfolio to maximize the probability of success. In basic research, it is important that the portfolio cover those areas that are likely to be important to the ultimate mission and that the assessors look at the portfolio and indicate whether there are areas that may be missing and whether there are areas covered that may not be very relevant. (These are sometimes very subjective evaluations.) In the product development portfolio, the areas are often well specified, but it is important to consider whether or not the correct technologies are being evaluated for possible use in a future product. As explained above, portfolios can be assessed during the planning phase, ongoing research phase, and retrospectively.
Three definable elements to consider in assessing the quality of a technical portfolio are (1) current projects and their relevance to the mission; (2) anticipation of opportunities; and (3) alignment of the planned future portfolio to mission, opportunities, and budget.
Generally an R&D organization has some way of cataloging its research portfolio. At the extreme of little specificity is funding per group with descriptions of the group responsibilities and recent accomplishments. This format is most common at the more basic or fundamental end of the R&D spectrum. At the more applied extreme are examples in some industrial organizations in which each project is specified in great detail, including timelines and anticipated return on investment.
In many respects surveying the research portfolio of a single organization (or a unit in that organization) is a straightforward process. Individual projects are grouped under programs and evaluated in concert with stakeholders’ needs and expectations. This process is often done through organized meetings. It may be a continuing process that includes formal oversight from those stakeholders as well as outside reviewers and consultants. Industrial organizations may rely heavily on metrics involving financial return, whereas government organizations may focus more on delivering needed value to stakeholders, consistent with mission statements.
When more than one organization is involved in the portfolio being examined, because of differences in the missions, history, and/or policies, a more complex situation of portfolio management occurs. In that case, a project may have different objectives within the context of each organization.
Workforce and Physical Resources Management
An effective assessment considers the adequacy of both the workforce and the physical facilities and equipment available to address the mission. Because the skills and capabilities of the workforce and the equipment and facilities available to them are key factors affecting the quality of the R&D work performed, workforce and physical resources are discussed in more detail in the Chapter 4, which discusses assessing the quality of the work. It is noted here that it is the responsibility of management to ensure that effective assessments of the available and needed workforce and physical resources are performed and that the results of these assessments are addressed with an eye toward meeting the requirements of the organization’s vision, mission,