Lean R&D: An Agile Research and Development Approach for Digital Transformation. In
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Petrobras is a large publicly-held company that operates in the oil, gas and energy industry. Recently, they conducted internal dynamics to identify several Digital Transformation (DT) opportunities to leverage their operational excellence. Addressing such opportunities typically requires Research and Development (R&D) uncertainties that could lead traditional R&D cooperation terms to be negotiated in years. However, there are time-to-market constraints for fast-paced deliveries to experiment solution options. With this in mind, they partnered up with PUC-Rio to establish a new DT initiative. The goal of this paper is to present the Lean R&D approach, tailored within this new initiative, and results of two case studies regarding its application in practice. We designed Lean R&D integrating the following building blocks: (i) Lean Inceptions, to allow stakeholders to jointly outline a Minimal Viable Product (MVP); (ii) early parallel technical feasibility assessment and conception phases, allowing to ‘fail fast’; (iii) scrum-based development management; and (iv) strategically aligned continuous experimentation to test business hypotheses. In the two reported case studies, Lean R&D enabled addressing research-related uncertainties early and to efficiently deliver valuable MVPs within four months, showing itself suitable for supporting the DT initiative. Key success factors were the business strategy alignment, the defined roles and co-creation philosophy with strong integration between Petrobras and PUC-Rio’s teams, and continuous support of a highly qualified research team. Main opportunities for improvement, based on our lessons learned, rely on better adapting Lean Inceptions to the DT context and on scaling the approach to a project portfolio level of abstraction.

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