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Blog : Research and Development - time well spent!


Research and Development - time well spent!

As Head Developer at Purple Cubed it’s my role to choose the right tools when we embark on a new project; if we are not careful with these choices, the projects can take twice as long, and the end result vastly inferior to the expectations of the organisation. The same thing can be said for non-technical projects. Giving your team time to do some research into the best way to solve a problem is, in my experience, invaluable – resulting in a brilliant solution, planned and carried out by a team who are confident and passionate about their achievements.
In some organisations however, it’s difficult to get the green light to spend time during work hours on something that doesn’t directly bring in revenue. It may not even be an option. Some, in our opinion more enlightened, technology giants go completely the other way, with Google’s “Innovation Time Off” the most well-known example.
Google allow their engineers to spend up to 20% of their working week to pursue special projects not necessarily related to their job description. Google then benefit from this in three main areas:
  • Profit: Some of the most popular services offered by Google have their roots in R&D time, most notably Gmail, which now has over 400 million users. The adverts placed inside the user interface bring in many millions of pounds of revenue every year.
  • Engagement: Engineers have the opportunity to advance their skills/experience in something they’re interested in, whilst producing work at the same time. It also gives them an opportunity to be creative. All of this will help them to be more engaged, benefiting Google for 100% of the employees’ time at work.
  • Engineers generally crave this kind of opportunity and philosophy from their employers, so Google will attract some of the best engineers around based on this perk.

Such a structured approach doesn’t suit everybody though. For some, there’s just not enough slack in the schedule to lose 20% of the working week. If your team are giving 100% all the time just to keep their heads above water, there are other challenges to address before introducing R&D time! You also need a healthy culture where experimentation and failure are accepted and respected; otherwise you could be placing limitations on what can be achieved during this time.
Here in the Purple Cubed development team, we recognise opportunities that are worth investing time in. For example, there’s always a thought process when starting a new project. If there’s a chance that a tool we’d usually use for a project may have been improved since the last time we used it, we’ll spend time researching the alternatives to make sure that we’re using the right tool for the job; that is, the tool that will help us build the best possible product in a reasonable amount of time. This opportunity for creative problem solving is greatly appreciated by the team, as it develops their skills, empowers them by giving them the chance to make recommendations and decisions, adds some extra variation to their role, and helps breed passion as they spend time looking into subjects they’re genuinely interested in. Our organisation then benefits hugely by having a team of highly engaged developers, building brilliant products that are solving real issues faced by our clients.
R&D time doesn’t have to be limited to the tech department. Many teams could benefit from allowing time for researching new ways of doing things. A day spent on R&D tomorrow could save you many days in improved efficiency over the coming year, if you feel your company culture is ready for it, why not give it a go?
How do you feel about taking time out of the normal working schedule for research and development? Would your services, team and clients benefit from it?

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