Connecting Transverse Research Activities
What makes all the actors of a research department work efficiently together? How breeders, biotechnicians and field testers share data and collaborate?
Nowadays, IT systems connect people together and help them share data in real time. Many strategies can enhance interactions within the R&D team, on top of them making the research software evolve to that end. But such a change involves human, technical and financial investments at the start, plus future maintenance costs.
It appears that integrating with one unified tool different activities bring more return on investment than an Information System fragmented with various bridges to maintain. Most studies on ERP tools show that the more and deep investment in one organization tool brings the best Return On Investment (ROI).
“Information management tools no longer aim to process data but to play a facilitating role on communication and cooperation between the actors, in other words a participatory coupling allowing the emergence of meaning, capitalization and spreading of the collective knowledge built.” Jean-Yves Prax
Connected research activities
Breeders strive to match their breeding objectives with processing constraints and consumer expectations on final product. Their long-term programs involve interactions with the Agronomic department for field experimentation, with the laboratory for biotech and quality analyses and with Production Research for their varieties’ historical data.
Variety, agronomy and phytosanitary testing departments conduct field experimentation for other activities within the R&D department or for external customers. They work closely with them to exchange all setup information (material and methods) and communicate them the results.
Laboratories in R&D departments are often responsible for various analysis (chemical, genetic, pathological…) on samples coming from other activities. They receive a whole set of information on the samples and on the tests to make, then proceed to the biotech analyses and eventually send back the results, often combined with an interpretation notice.
Henry Ford : "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."
Connected transverse activities
The whole research department depends on Warehouses to know the stocks of living material and all necessary supplies. Real time tracking is the key to good stock management and requires connections to every activity. For instance, barcode scanning and automatic weight input enable breeders and agronomists to plan ahead their trials in accordance.
Integrating unit costs data with R&D workflows enables to get a financial overview on the research department budget. Advanced aggregation and reporting tools are necessary to plan, monitor and summarize financial information, provided that all activities are integrated in the IT system.
Along a season, R&D managers track the advancement of work to reach their objectives. The work dispatching and resource management on R&D projects can be facilitated with IT tools enabling to register and change resource allocation among projects, to control the time and overworked resources.
Michael Jordan: "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships."
Transverse research IT system
Plant research departments involve many activities connected together, connected to other departments, and even to external suppliers or customers. These connections are crucial for the global efficiency of the whole team. Disconnection and heterogeneous information systems waste time, generate stress and potential risks of errors, when full integration not only facilitates exchanges within the research department, but also brings about interesting ways to increase global efficiency.
Nowadays researchers can even access further connectivity with a direct link with users of their products. More and more research departments integrate to their studies some information coming directly from their seed multiplicators, from the farmers or even from end consumers. Experience Feedback consists in tools to link the researchers creating or improving a product (of any kind) to the end user's feedback. It can be the taste of a strawberry (consumer > food lab), the yield of a variety (farmer > breeder) or even the user-friendliness of a software (user > programmer)……and this vision inspired the name of Doriane’s suite of software for R&D departments !
At the center of all connections within an R&D organization, the information system consists in a suite of software applications and material databases specifically designed to help researchers manage workflows, data storage, statistical analysis and eventually take decisions to reach their objectives.
Real time data management is the key to the efficiency of the information management. It is made possible by the adoption of a unique IT system that complies with all the needs of every activity, such as RnDExperience®
1-The Transverse Information System: New Solutions for IS and Business Performance
De Francois Rivard, Georges Abou Harb, Philippe Meret
2- Les outils de management de l’information n’ont plus pour but de traiter des données mais de constituer un facilitateur de la communication et de la coopération entre les acteurs, c’est-à-dire un couplage participatif qui fait émerger du sens et de la capitalisation et diffusion de la connaissance collective ainsi construite (Jean-Yves Prax, 1997) expert en knowledge management.