HEALDSBURG -- Metier is not a traditional manufacturing company in any sense. Yet the provider of project-portfolio-management software and solutions bills itself as an example of what Chief Executive Officer Douglas Clark calls the "new assembly line."

The new assembly line treats projects the same way goods are manufactured, moving through a series of time-sensitive and resource-dependent stages toward a goal: the finished product.

[caption id="attachment_76696" align="alignleft" width="200"] Doug Clark[/caption]

"Manufacturers have honed their skills to a point where the error rate is one in 1 million," said Mr. Clark. "Projects, on the other hand, fail 30 percent of the time, costing the U.S.economy some $3.5 trillion in lost productivity."

Part of the problem, he believes, stems from the lack of reliable tools in place to track intangible assets, which in the information sector, now account for a large part of a company’s valuation.

"Take companies like Apple or Google," Mr. Clark said. "Their immense value doesn’t come from their property or inventory, or even their history of successful products and services. It comes from how we perceive their future, their ability to continually innovate."

Intellectual property now accounts for 80 percent of the S&P 500 total value, a shift that began to occur with the advent of computers and accelerated with the appearance of the Internet and the Web, he said.

"The Cloud and Big Data will be the next two drivers of radical shift," said Mr. Clark. "Meanwhile, we have had to change our perceptions of what is important and how our resources should be applied."

The traditional business process involved identifying a market, setting sales goals and fine-tuning an assembly line to produce the required goods. Disruptive technologies were few and far between.

But in the new information economy, in which disruptive technologies are common and new strategies put in place on the fly to handle them, managers have lost sight of what made the original factories successful, according to Mr. Clark.

"A successful assembly line constantly measures its own progress in order to improve efficiency," he said. Questions to be asked include what processes can be adjusted to better meet the goal and what resources can be realigned to improve efficiency.

[caption id="attachment_76697" align="alignright" width="367"] Metier software manages the "new assembly line" for intangible assets, which have become the dominant part of the value of S&P 500 companies.[/caption]

"Metrics are a necessity, always," he said. "Processes must be identified so that they can be measured. And the standards of measurement put in place must be consistently applied."

With a clear taxonomy established, the same kind of data can be collected that helped the old factory lines develop repeatable processes, the key ingredient of successful manufacturing.

"Once information companies see themselves as project factories, this becomes clear," said Mr. Clark. 

Metier (707-546-9300, metier.com) as a manufacturing company has developed its own high-tech "assembly line" and honed it with the use of metrics over the years. The company is currently sharing its knowledge, through installed or cloud-based software, with more than 100 customers, among them the California Public Safety Communications Office and the California Lottery.