Dr. Tatjana Samsonowa on Research Engagement with Product Development

Dr. Tatjana Samsonowa is managing director at IPERF, a research institute specializing in Research Performance Management. She is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Management at the State University of St. Petersburg (GSOM). Previously, she worked as innovation and relationship manager at SAP, Walldorf, Germany. As a scholar of the German National Academic Foundation, she received a graduate degree in European Business Management from the University of Applied Sciences, Worms, studying Intl. Business Administration at the University Iberoamericana, Mexico. In 2011, she received a PhD in information science from TU Darmstadt.

Q: What does your research institute IPERF do?

The Institute for Research Performance Management (IPERF) investigates how industrial research can be measured and managed. The objective of the institute is to further develop and implement systematic R&D performance measurements in the industry. IPERF operates in three key areas:

  • Research (IPERF facilitates exchange between its members, supports scientific research and serves as a platform for discussion and dissemination of results in the field)
  • Training (IPERF provides extensive training in the forms of workshops and individual programs in the areas of performance measurement and management at highest levels)
  • Consulting (IPERF consults on the optimization and implementation of innovation processes to enable a better performance of collaboration between research departments and adjacent departments)

Q: What are the key trends you see in corporate research?

We see that in Europe that corporate research departments focus more and more on the business needs of a company, therefore "the business" often influences the research agenda. We also observe an appreciation of the importance of collaboration between research and development and other adjacent departments and business units that are potential consumers of research results. Flexible structures and project set-ups allow for more ad-hoc collaboration. There are fewer cases of “blue-sky” research nowadays (or basic research as opposed to applied) because research projects are expected to contribute to concrete business applications and work in close cooperation with customers to ensure the integration of new insights.

Q: What role do you see research playing in product development?

Research should play a big role in product development. The primary role is educational: researchers are the first ones to get deep into a particular topic or to catch an upcoming trend. They can educate product managers and share their knowledge and state-of-the-art perspective. Besides helping product management stay up-to-date, research also helps customers stay innovative since they will get to know trends and current opportunities early and when not seeing solutions for their needs in the market they will also give new ideas to the products (lead-user approach). Research should be integrated in other departments and have regular coordination/contact with people from product development, maintaining the exchange of ideas and dialog is an important success factor.

Q: What are the top three challenges to research/product development engagement?

I would say the top three are:

  1. Different focus (product development deals with the current needs of the customers, research - with the future needs); that can be difficult for product management to switch the time focus from current to the future one
  2. Different language/concepts: product development works closely with the clients (they know and can speak client language and understand their needs), researchers are more isolated from the customers since they focus too much on the research itself.
  3. Lack of formal engagement. In most cases, communication between research and product development is based on specific events, e.g., technology transfer or is haphazard. These groups need a slightly more formal approach that ensure they talk to each other several times a year.

Q: What message would you like to send software product managers?

Spend more time with the research department and invite the researchers to participate in your current projects. Dive into the world of tomorrow and get inspired!