Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is time the chief constraint in a research project?

Is time the chief constraint in a research project?

What about a project whose goal is to develop a product based on the research results or market it?

In terms of developing an export market for a product time factors will be determined by effort and duration until project completion is reached as our notes describe. However time in researching a possible export market for a product will require consideration of both primary and secondary market research both methods which would determine "go or no go" decisions among a continuously diminished pool of possible target markets - a research process which also relies on long lead times.

For example, John R. Jagoe a NASBITE founding member in the US, describes three major steps in time management which require a local product with at least three years of sales growth matched by a funnel research technique to a possible small market with high local import sales growth. The first would be screening potential markets a long lead time required, second would be assessing the targeted markets which would require more primary research focus and shorter time constraints and the third would be forming conclusions and making local contacts these would be essential short-term measures to match a possible decided product launch.

The quality and cost of the product in a local market would need possible modifications either through export market preferences or import requirements in terms of standards or consumer directed changes which would normally be discovered through the adequate provision of market research. Finding out too late in the process could suddenly turn a profitable export enterprise into a liability. For example, new labelling or packaging requirements, stricter provisions in terms of ingredients or product materials, new competitive entrants or currency exchange risks in addition to added marketing costs could all reduce profit margins beyond the benefits of exporting the products.

While current global trade appears to be stabilizing, actual growth in commodities and shipping rates volumes appears slow to increase to re-crisis levels. Some or all of the listed factors above may be impacting upon global trade recovery to pre-crisis levels. The additional factor of nearly all marginal and charter shipping companies having been closed reduces price competition in trading routes and shipping rates which heightens costs for small exporters possibly diminishing their profit margins and eroding their competitiveness abroad.

The secondary research required to determine export market suitability itself could be conducted over a long lead time with a larger number of stakeholders as its costs could be fairly low in comparison to primary research either through local surveys, questionnaires or other interviews which would need to be conducted over a shorter time frame closer to the point of possible product launch and costs could be quite significant. Even then the research may not prove relevant in the case of sudden market fluctuations or forecasts which did not include scenarios which would require immediate new primary data sources.

This necessary cost versus benefit primary research gathering could be a factor in the slow increase of global trade at this time. Many export markets require new evaluations over previous forecasts and following such a downturn there may not be larger budgets to support necessary primary research to be conducted to establish or re-establish market analysis trends and reports.

In such a case time remains a significant constraint.

Do you have control over manipulating the effort and the duration of your project's tasks?

As chief planner of my proposal I need to measure the actual hours and days of similar projects as being benchmarks for my own milestone and deadline setting measures. But I am not in control of possible time constraints in terms of sponsor availability, agreement challenges, and possible revisions necessary to refinement of the topic, or objectives necessary for sign-off, availability of supervisors, etc.

In terms of duration again I can attempt to manipulate the overall completion dates but need to anticipate possible delays as engagement of stakeholders and sponsors may require more time than I have estimated. This would imply consistent monitoring of time progress and revision of time estimates on an ongoing basis for reformatting sequencing and scheduling of the time plan. These possible time constraint challenges would require notation in the project risk portion of the project plan.

For example, a recent Ph.D. Research Position at the Center for Competitiveness of the University of Fribourg Switzerland forwarded to me by Dr. Philippe Gugler described, " The position is fully funded for two years by the Swiss National Science Foundation (a third year is not excluded). " It is nice to note the possibility exists for a quick gallop or a leisurely saunter through the possible time planning of the proposed project. While I have the heart of Sea Biscuit I am always in favour of developing a reasonable speed of work in terms of effort which enables consistent and pervasive quality and time monitoring with a provision for work breaks, leisure and general dalliances which allows for consistent thoroughness which does require more time than a quick dash to the finish line.


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Daniel Costello said...

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