Gallons of virtual ink have been poured in debating whether predictive lifecycle project management is outdated or not. It is also frequent to be confused about terms that are used interchangeably. In the projectmanagement.com forum is recurrent to find questions like "Is agile booming in detriment of waterfall?" without realizing that waterfall is a lifecycle management and agile is a mindset, an approach, and not a methodology. Both can live together – and they do – in complete harmony.
Simplifying, there are two parameters that must be taken into consideration prior to assessing the lifecycle management that best fits the project needs.
- Need for speed. This is directly linked to the business environment. For example, cell phone manufacturers have the urgency to release a new model every year. Each new model must have added a new feature and/or significantly improved the performance of existing features.
- Need for creativity. This variable measures the outside the box thinking required to deliver value. A project to build a residential complex identical to another complex built the previous year will require very limited creativity. However, building the Burj Khalifa required a significant dose of creativity given the peculiarities associated to building the tallest man-made structure in the planet.
The Pharmaceutical industry: a changing paradigm?
When someone thinks of projects in the pharmaceutical industry tends to consider projects in R&D and in the development of new molecules in particular. In short, about 5 to 10 thousand molecules are kicked off in the drug discovery phase. Around 250 will make it to the preclinical phase and clinical trials will start with only 5 of those. Finally, 1 out of these 5 molecules will obtain approval for commercialization from the regulatory agencies. The whole process takes a minimum of 10 years, and can easily go up to 15. One can conclude that these projects are long, complex and extremely expensive.
The search for a vaccine against SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19, has shaken up the playing board. Timelines are being very significantly shortened and certain constraints have been loosen up in order to allow creative approaches. For example, drugs against malaria have been tested against the virus. Or timelines to start clinical trials have been very notoriously slimmed down. The need for speed is paramount given the death toll that this pandemic is causing. The commitment at a global scale to resolve this situation as quick as possible has caused fundamental changes not only in our personal life but also in the approach to manage R&D projects in the pharmaceutical industry. Time will tell if these changes have come to stay.