Monday, November 1, 2010

Integrate Idea Management Systems …. With What Exactly?

It seems everyone wants to be sure that their idea management system integrates with other systems deployed at their companies. I’m always interested in hearing with what exactly they want to integrate. Sometimes I hear really smart, creative integration schemes. Sometimes asking for the ability to integrate is part of a check off list. So what should you worry about integrating your idea management system? Let’s think.

Why Integrate?

First of all I’ve been helping companies deploy enterprise wide systems for a long time. These are “enterprise systems” because they are either used by the lion’s share of team members or because they impact everyone at the company. These systems beg the question of integration. CRM systems need to integrate with accounting systems because customer data should not be in silos. On line real time video needs to be integrated with other communications systems. So I understand that deploying a system that sits by itself off in a corner is not a good idea.

Downstream Tools

There are logical integration points for idea management systems. By definition, an idea management system addresses requirements at the Front End of Innovation; therefore the data generated will likely be used “downstream”. So if you think of FEI as the vehicle for “research”, the same data is going to be required when “development” ensues. When great ideas are generated (and agreed upon in a collaborative environment) then the idea needs to be managed with one of several traditional “stage gate” systems. These include project management, product lifecycle management (PLM), and project portfolio management (PPM).

The productivity of these development systems will be enhanced if each project starts off with the idea and all the studies, justification, documentation and financial analysis that elevated it to the status of “best idea” and worthy of development. A good idea management system treats all the data within as merely “objects” in a data base. If the database is an industry standard (e.g. SQL) then it is easy to identify, capture, scoop up the data and shove it into the subsequent environments via API’s or Web Services. This is a really good example of desirous and useful integration.


Most (good) idea management systems have a messaging component. Users can be alerted when an idea is commented on or worked on. And these systems also have a service to invite other users, which usually kicks off a message to another user. These and other messages can be integrated with emails. And a messaging system internal to the idea management software will likely have pop ups or other indicators that a message exists. If an organization already has a messaging system it can get really confusing if users have to check for messages in multiple places. Integrating the idea management’s messaging system with any existing enterprise messaging system is a good use case for integration.

Single Sign On

Enterprise IT departments are in the business of providing technology to make their end users’ life easier. Single sign on with Active Directory (AD) or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Users can log onto the idea management system just by pulling it up in their browser instead of keying in a user name and password (again), thereby saving valuable time. (LDAP) is a standard request for any enterprise software.

Financial Systems

I’ve been asked to integrate idea management with Financial Systems. A bit downstream, but still during the front end of innovation, the collaborative group need to justify cost effectiveness and collect other financial attributes. Being able to draw on financial data without too much searching in order to flush out an idea is a big step toward productivity. This integration point is trickier but a pretty reasonable request.

Knowledge Management

Another fine attribute to an idea management system is to take advantage of the collaborative tool’s ability to act as a knowledge management system. Idea management systems should enable users to post files, videos, images, RSS feeds, Twitter accounts, etc. But if a knowledge management system already exists in the enterprise (quite frequently SharePoint based), this too is an excellent example of a productive integration point.

How to do it

The very best way to address integration is to allow your idea management vendor to participate in two steps. First you should conduct a discovery session where the enterprise organization discusses all the possible places where integration can occur. Second you orchestrate a meeting or conference call with all the various software vendors. They can decide what has to be integrated, when and how integration should take place and the best methods to perform the integration.

None of this is to say that integration should be part of Phase I deployment of your idea management system. It is just a good idea to architect the deployment so that integration is possible. Phase I should be getting the idea management system up and running. Then let’s connect all the pieces together. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.

Idea Management is a software tool that impacts the entire enterprise. Integration with other systems can be valuable and promote productivity. It is always a good idea to think through what should be integrated, invite your idea management team to help you figure out integration points you haven’t thought of, then manage and create an integration plan.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation management system. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . He has written extensively on Idea Management (Read Here) .

CogniStreamer® is an idea management software tool. It is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external partner companies or knowledge centers join forces to create, develop and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected areas. The CogniStreamer® portal is an ideal collaborative platform that invites users to actively build a strong innovation portfolio. In addition it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge sharing. The CogniStreamer® framework is used by industry leaders such as Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp. CogniStreamer® represents the best use of adaptive collaborative technology such to harness human skill, ingenuity and intelligence.


Rick said...

You didn't mention records retention systems. In certain industries, (e.g. financial services) electronic communications such as email, instant messages, and discussions are subject to regulatory requirements for retention and retrieval. Integration with a system like Facetime or Socialware is likely to be a must in some firms.

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