Témoignage de M. Gerhard Drexler, directeur R&D chez Mondi Business Paper, mai 2012, pour qui nous avons analysé plusieurs projets d’investissements reposant sur des innovations de rupture dans l’industrie papetière :

What was your problematic when you started looking for a new décision tool or a solution and decided to investigate the Real Option « option »?

As an expanding enterprise we were looking for new opportunities based on radical innovations. Developing breakthroughs in technology and inventing things for markets that didn’t yet exist posed quite a challenge at that time. On the one hand we had many ideas waiting for their evaluation, on the other hand we did not have the resources to follow up on all good ideas. So we were looking for a method which provided the opportunity to reflect the flexibility of our future actions in response to evolving market or technological conditions.

How did you first hear about Real Options?

In The McKinsey Quarterly I read an article titled “The real power of real options“ (Leslie & Michaels, 1997). We discussed this approach but had no expertise to implement it at that time. It took several years until we had an opportunity to push this topic.

What evaluation tool were you using to assess your projects before getting interested in Real Options?

Our R&D utilized a process similar to the Stage-Gate® method. It was divided into five levels, starting with the definition of ideas and ending with the implementation or commercialization of a novel product or process. Between levels two and three we had to establish a business plan including the amortization of the opex and capex. In addition, we conducted a kind of sensitivity analysis based on scenarios.

Did you think that those tools were not suitable for your projects? If yes, can you tell what limits you were meeting?

Our approach was more or less suitable for projects that were neither large nor risky. In case of visionary projects based on very “fuzzy” assumptions and high risk, we wanted to demonstrate our ability to react to changes in economic or technological environment.

When starting to apply Real Options methods, did you meet some difficulties (operational, organizational)? This question deals with the appropriation of the tool and the initial reactions towards the method…

The best we could do was to support an MBA thesis and try to learn as much as possible. Subsequently, we employed a consultant for support.

Once Real Options applied, did you find any benefit? If yes, can you specify which benefits have Real Options provided to your organization?

Yes, we did find some benefit, especially concerning the evaluation of a portfolio of long-term and high-risk projects. We could identify and rank project proposals in terms of time and flexibility.

Would you say that this approach resulted in a mindset change in your organization or for some of you inside the organization?

As the number of very large and high-risk projects is quite small, we do not utilize Real Options on a daily business base. That is why this tool is only known by a very few people in our organization. We expect a broader application in case of patent management or large collaborative R&D projects with external partners.

To your opinion, what would be an ideal organization (in the sense of a structure inside a company) for using Real Options?

My experience tells me that an organization should be used to managing processes and projects. These organizations have the ability to collaborate both internally and externally, and their decision processes are structured and not based on “gut feelings”.

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