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Book Review: Innovation Project Management
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Innovation Project Management

Innovation Project Management

Written by: Harold Kerzner. Wiley: Hoboken, NJ (2019).
Reviewed by: Martijn Antonisse, PhD, NPDP

Innovation Project Management

I noticed, working as project management professional in the field of innovation for many years, that most PM frameworks have limitations in this area. My interest was, of course, raised when Innovation Project Management by Harold Kerzner (an authority in the project management field) was published and especially when reading in the introduction chapter:

“It is inevitable that, over the next several years, professional organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI®) will recognize the need to begin setting some standards for innovation project management and possibly partner with organizations such as the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), which offers a certification program related to innovation” (page 2).

Kerzner starts his book with an analysis of the characteristics of innovation projects and points out that the environment can significantly differ from traditional projects. The project manager will, for example, be involved in many business decisions and has a tight connection with the business strategy. They must focus on longer term thinking since the benefits of success of the project will be proven only after successful commercialization. On top of that, the scope might develop during the project in a highly dynamic environment.

Next, the book introduces the different types of innovation, such as incremental, radical, and (in a later chapter) disruptive innovation. Also, special types (like open innovation or social innovation) are described in sections that just give enough detail to understand the relevant differences that impact the life of a project manager. Several references are given to additional literature in case the reader desires more depth.

Chapter 3 deals with Innovation and strategy in a very broad sense. Topics range from the BCG matrix to product (development) life cycles, economic evaluation methods and competencies. The latter is illustrated with a very nice industry example of the innovation project management competence model from Eli Lilly.

The chapter on tools and process gives a small selection on tools in relation to culture, design thinking, and prototyping. Luckily the rest of the book has many more tools hidden (again often with very good industry examples), since the number of tools is slightly limited and innovation project managers really need a wider spectrum of competencies and tools than used in traditional projects. Kerzner illustrates that himself in this chapter by illustrating how project management sequentially developed from Generation 1.0, to 2.0 and now 3.0.

In the next chapter, examples continue where traditional and innovation project management thinking differ. The more conventional project management topics are discussed in light of the innovation environment.

Chapter 7 is very good, focusing on value. What is meant with business value and how can you measure and report it? To inspire the reader, several examples of value attributes and related metrics are given. A later chapter discusses in more detail what success and failure can look like and what typical causes are of projects that fail.

The chapters on business models, disruptive innovation and typical innovation roadblocks again assure that people new to the field of innovation projects get a quick view on the many aspects of innovation that can help you to maximize project success and value.

As mentioned, every chapter is supported by one or more industry examples. But like the dessert of already a great meal, the book ends with two more chapters of “Innovation in Action” and case studies. Case studies derive from Disney, Boeing, and the Sydney Opera house. For teachers, the publisher also provides supportive teaching material.

In summary, this is a book I recommend and that project managers in the innovation field should have standing next to the PDMA Body of Knowledge. Especially valuable are the many industry examples and clear explanation of the specific characteristic (and opportunities) of innovation projects.