The surgical robotics R&D team faced challenges related to adapting agile methods to distributed R&D processes, capturing fast-moving decision-making processes, ensuring visibility of goals and innovations, and promoting best practices. Additionally, the pressure to deliver innovation and manage projects efficiently in an ever-evolving environment added complexity to their efforts.
To address these challenges, the R&D team adopted Authentise Threads, which allowed them to work together seamlessly, share information, ask questions, raise issues, track actions, and make decisions efficiently. It provided a digital thread of collaborative work, enabling contributors to engage in discussions, share documents, and track tasks within a secure environment.
Saved around 150 hours within the initial weeks by tracking changes efficiently
Instant contribution to projects without lengthy briefings or information searches
Gathered scattered references, comments, and thoughts into one accessible repository
Tracked critical decisions, actions, and resolutions with clear context
Achieved flexibility in R&D approach, aligning with their workflow and goals
Surgical robotics R&D team tracks 100% of their decisions and saves 150 hours in the first 2 weeks... doubling the effective size of their team
About our customer
Doug M. is an R&D Design Engineer with a well known manufacturer of surgical systems and instruments, who are doing some pioneering work with distributed agile R&D processes. As a key part of a distributed R&D team, providing a range of engineering analysis services Doug gets to work on a wide range of challenging engineering problems from consumer goods to medical devices, helping push the role of analysis in understanding and finding a timely solution. “I've always enjoyed being able to look at the future of engineering methods and processes.” says Doug.
Today, Doug is part of a wider R&D team working on a range of cutting edge robotic surgical automation capabilities. The adoption of agile ideas to broader engineering organisations is an idea that’s familiar to Doug and the rest of the team around him.
At a time when Teams are increasingly being asked to be more responsive to customers, traditional organisational structures are struggling to adapt.
New agile methods have been proven in other fields. However, to work and gain more adoption, more generally for engineering, adaptation and change is needed. In the meantime, existing tools are not flexible enough and limited in scope for the wider engineering world. The result is that information, actions, decisions are… “all over the place”.
The pressure for R&D organisations is unrelenting. As McKinsey puts it, “the age of the insular R&D organisation is over. To serve as a company’s innovation engine, R&D strategy needs to be equipped for today’s fast-moving world. Gartner continues… "The most effective R&D organisations reprioritize their product portfolio by utilising a “test and learn” strategy and killing unpromising projects quickly”.
What are the challenges for R&D, which people like Doug are facing?
This agile-like approach to R&D has not missed many. Engagement and discussion with almost 90 R&D organisations, by Authentise in its development of Authentise Threads, identifies some common challenges across R&D organisations.
The need to drive greater focus on the efforts customer’s need, versus organisation charts.
Struggling to capture detailed, fast moving, decision making processes.
Difficult visibility of goals, systems, ideas and innovations often already in place.
Struggle to easily and naturally identify and promote best practice, great ideas and impactful innovation.
Hunting for relevant information across numerous documents, shared hard drives.
Having a live tracking system that could flex as R&D organisations learn.
To evaluate their needs more and drive greater flexibility into their processes, one such R&D lead adopted Authentise Threads, to help manage their efforts.
Authentise Threads is a new work thread management & collaboration tool, that can help agile cross functional R&D and engineering teams “work together, like they all work for one company”. To transform how their products are designed, engineered, manufactured, delivered and serviced.
Find information. Ask questions. Raise issues. Get help & support. Drive actions & resolution. Share ideas. Communicate decisions. Highlight best practice. Optimize processes... Work together!
As the name implies, Authentise Threads provides a digital thread of collaborative work bringing together numerous tasks and effort across different contributors. Within each thread users can contribute and work together on the tasks that matter to them and their team working on any thread. Within each thread contributors can chat and discuss their work, share relevant documents and links, resources, and references in a simple, secure, and reliable environment. However, unlike general purpose chat or collaboration tools, they can also formally track thread events, enabling teams to collectively define and track issues, decisions, actions, resolutions and more. Each thread represents a live, dynamic, fluid and agile working environment to work together.
The idea of agile, applied to an R&D mindset, is a little different to that from software. Doug outlines that, “The thing l like about Threads, is that there’s more continuity, with flexible threads and the links between them. You’re not bound by the artificial nature of 2 week sprints. For our work, Authentise Threads can help us, as threads spawn organically, more aligned to the natural way we work today."
“Threads allows us to create an almost organic “to-do” list across numerous teams, for all sorts of different efforts in R&D. Whether product/technology performance insights, or design for manufacturing evaluations, we can see which threads are critical. We can see which threads are taking up our time. Some of the threads are clearly taking up more time than others. We can see which threads are causing challenges very clearly. The important threads are naturally bubbling up to the top of our list of things to do.”
For Doug, and some of his immediate team, their immediate experience of Authentise Threads, is telling.
"After an initial 30 minute briefing, within a week we’d developed 22 threads across our cross functional team of 3-4 people. A week later, as our efforts fluctuated, we’d digitally developed and tracked 125 changes with 54 formal events, such as decisions, issues, actions, and resolutions, all without a single meeting. 4 of these events were critical decisions requiring traceability." says Doug.
Doug estimates that to cover those threads, events and contributors with all their comments would have taken countless meetings, briefings and chasing. "With our small team there’s no way we would have gotten through this much work, and have all our machinations, discussions and decisions tracked, for good or bad. We virtually doubled the effective size of our team.”
A permanent history of their efforts: "Threads also “don’t go away”, or are hard to find", Doug elaborates.
In fact, across the 22 Threads our small team developed in our 1st week, we’re amalgamating together 31 references which previously would have been buried in various reports, hard drives, corporate systems and more. With Threads, they’re there for all to see, with all our hard work, comments, and thoughts associated with them. Across the 12 initiatives the team tracked, the team estimates they saved almost 20 meetings, saving approximately 150 man hours of time, just in the first few weeks.
In experiences shared with other users of Threads, Doug’s team also finds that new team members can get up to speed and contribute to projects almost instantaneously. There’s no longer a need for long briefing meetings, or a frustrating hunt across numerous different sites for apparently contradictory information. All the information is in one place, with a timeline and context. “This has to be the simplest and easy example of a digital thread for collaborative R&D”, says Doug.
As you might expect, for an R&D leader, focussed on flexible execution Doug keep options open when discussing the future. However, the immediate results from their first weeks with Authentise Threads are telling. “We would not have been able to outline our work like this with our previous tools. We no longer have a need to track things in spreadsheets, and we can see where information is, even if it is in a shared drive, or some other corporate system.” There’s clearly a lot of potential to be had with Threads, with Doug and the team looking forward to where Threads is going.
Looking even further afield, and irrespective of their experiences with Authentise Threads,open minded, agility & speed, focussed on the key needs of customers, are key ideas for R&D.