Monday, December 12, 2011

Due Diligence on your Idea Management Software Decision

If you’re about to spend your 2011 on a decision to buy an idea management system, here’s some last minute due diligence questions to ask your software vendor (and yourself) before putting yourself out there with a risk. Enterprise software decisions are always a risk. The good news is that a successful decision can bolster a career.

First off, stop thinking of it as an idea management system. Start thinking of it as an Innovation Ecosystem. The new environment is not just to run contests; it’s to assemble all of your smart people in one place in order to facilitate sharing of important information. Ideas are one of those things.

Your new system should also enable people to share other information besides just ideas. Your team members should be able to share germane data that can help the others make informed decisions and ideate. So when challenged I might not have an idea but here’s a link to an article I read, here’s an RSS feed to an industry magazine on the subject, here’s a video I saw, here’s picture of something similar, let’s start a sidebar discussion, here’s a white paper I wrote, a spreadsheet I assembled…well you get it. By sharing this information with the rest of the team, we’re likely to stimulate new ideas.

If the system is only focused on campaigns or contests, why do you need a system? You can just get everyone in a room and ask for ideas once a quarter. The ideation process should be collaborative and ongoing.

If the system is heavily focused on rewards you have to wonder what innovation research they’re reading. If you give away a t-shirt for one idea contest, you better give an iPad for the next and then what? A car? People will participate in the ideation process for the sheer thrill of having their cohort comment on their thoughts. When they get an email that their idea was promoted to the next step, they’ll be sure to submit future ideas. Your smart people don’t need to pick something out of a catalog, they need to know their managers are paying attention to what they’re saying.

You should reward contributions, because if you encourage people to contribute, ideas will be the result. One person’s idea shouldn’t have more value than someone else. Your innovation ecosystem needs to be a transparent democracy. Not a meritocracy where some people’s opinions are worth more than others. After all it’s not the “wisdom of the highest paid person in the room”…it’s the “wisdom of the crowd” we’re after. Again, what do you need a system for in this scenario, why not just get the department into a room and everyone can agree that the boss’s idea was best?

The company offering your innovation ecosystem needs to have two things for it and you to be successful. Their development team needs a founder and head of development with a vision. If the company has fired their visionary and is being run by a venture capital company, you have to wonder about their motives. And second the development group needs to be listening to clients in order to add the right features. If the company is entirely mercenary; not listening, then again their motives are suspect. If they hand you a “kill sheet” that puts down the competition instead of pointing out their own virtues, they’re probably a little too narcissistic (and won’t be listening to you either).

Expert professional services that have accumulated a basket of best practices is a key element to implement a collaborative innovation process at your site. If you’re being told you need the software company’s team to be involved constantly and long term, you’re not getting a very self sustaining environment. Your software partner should help you figure out how to use the system and then step back. Actually, you should see your software partner as an innovation architect, whose job it is to build a sustainable innovation ecosystem at your site, not just install a collaborative software tool and walk away.

So…if they charge you per campaign they’re not supporting your ongoing collaborative process. If they’re being led by a VC firm, they probably don’t have your best interests at heart (they’re getting ready to go public).

· You should be partnering with a company that has been doing this for a while, who offer a feature rich innovation ecosystem based on client feature requests.

· Your software partner should be able to guide you initially and then provide a self sustaining environment.

· You should be buying a system that can serve as the backbone for your innovation culture; a place for all your smart people to assemble, collaborate and share important information.

There are many companies that fit the bill. Invite them in and listen closely.

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) . If you search on “Shulkin” here at the FEI blog web site, you’ll find numerous entries on idea management systems.

CogniStreamer® is used as the backbone for many companies’ culture of innovation. It is the idea collaborative tool to generate ideas. CogniStreamer is both an innovation knowledge management and idea management software tool, available both SaaS and behind clients’ firewalls. 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, BPost, 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. Plus it supported by a team of experts who have built best practices and lend guidance based on practical experience.

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