Time Is Money

Execs weigh in on the need to cut down product-development cycles.
The value of tightening business processes and finding ways to get products to market faster is a hot topic at the InformationWeek Fall Conference in Tucson, Ariz., where IT professionals gathered Monday to share their thoughts in a session called "The Incredible Shrinking Product Development Cycle."

For session speaker Roy Dunbar, VP and CIO of pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Co., shortened development time can be worth a fortune. Tremendously popular new drugs can earn more than $3 billion a year, he says, so every year he can cut off the sometimes 10-year drug-development cycle can make the company billions more.

One way Eli Lilly has tried to speed the process is by making information more easily and quickly available to researchers. The company combined various reference databases, meaning that scientists had to spend less time and effort gathering data. It created data-management tools so that when doctors tested drugs and recorded their results, that information could be more easily analyzed. And it even created a portal that contains a searchable database of employee expertise, so it's quick and easy to find an expert who can answer a question or solve an otherwise time-consuming problem.

Max More, director of content solutions for business-strategy consulting firm ManyWorlds Inc., agrees that shrinking product-development cycles is a popular goal in today's business environment. But ManyWorlds takes a more-aggressive approach, urging customers to totally reinvent their development processes around new technologies. That way, he says, companies can reap much bigger benefits, adding, "We're looking to go far beyond optimizing."