This study reports an empirical analysis of a hybrid management framework combining agile project management and stage-gate model implemented in a technology-driven project. The results indicate positive impact on the project and product development performance and suggest that combining these two approaches to balance stability with flexibility is a potential solution for managing innovation projects in high technology-based companies. The evidence indicated critical aspects to be considered, such as the proper diagnosis of organizational factors and implementation of practices, and the alignment of agile project tools (e.g., visual boards) with traditional information systems used in the stage-gate process.
New product development (NPD) theory has evolved considerably since 1990 (Brown and Eisenhardt, 1995; Griffin, 1997; Barczak et al., 2009) with distinct practices, tools, techniques, and management frameworks. In recent years, a new and disruptive innovation environment has challenged NPD theory and practice with the emergence of, for example, digital creative industries (Parmentier and Mangematin, 2014), co-creation (Rayna et al., 2015), 3D printing, fast prototyping (Elverum and Welo, 2015), and the demand for radical innovation-oriented capabilities (Salomo et al., 2007). The challenges and changes in these industries require NPD strategies and frameworks that combine simplicity, velocity, and flexibility as never before. Consequently, the search for NPD models and approaches has become a new and emergent topic for both scholars and practitioners. Cooper (2008), for example, emphasized the importance of exploring different approaches, including practices from so-called “agile methods”, in order to cope with the innovation and dynamism of certain industries and project types. In addition, Cooper (2008) pointed out the need to adapt stage-gate models to achieve higher levels of flexibility and “agility”. Agile project management (APM) methods have been disseminated widely in the software development industry. These methods gained momentum since a group of practitioners from the software development field (Beck et al., 2001) conceived a manifesto (Manifesto for Agile Software Development), which presents basic principles and values to assist project managers in dealing with issues related to software development projects. APM is focused primarily on managing customer needs and evolving requirements by using short development cycles (iterations) and continuous change and adaptation all the way through the project life cycle (Barlow et al., 2011). Product complexity and technology innovation may affect the use of these practices for NPD environments. According to Kim and Wilemon (2003), NPD complexity can originate from several sources, for example, technology uncertainty, number of components, systems and subsystems, and number of organizations involved. These characteristics undermine the project team’s ability to deal with evolving requirements. The recommended approach then is to detail the product requirements and specifications in the early stages. This results in reduced flexibility to absorb changes (Nerur et al., 2005) and to disrupt the information and communication process among teams, and, consequently, the coordination and decision-making during the NPD life cycle (Laanti, 2008 apud Mishra and Mishra, 2011).