3 questions to help you decide if you should invest in an innovation management software

Regardless of the sector, if you have worked in a large organisation in the last few years, and especially if you are involved in managing innovation, it is likely you have heard or even used some form of ingenious innovation box or enterprise innovation management software.

The reality is that, as businesses’ needs continually grow to respond to digital transformation, innovation management software has become a powerful tool to manage collaborative innovation and strategically generate new ideas with business value. They have evolved beyond prompting ideation and internal innovation processes to explore the full potential of an organisation’s innovation ecosystem.

In the most varied sectors, innovative companies with digital transformation on their mind are using these tools to efficiently streamline and centralise innovation initiatives, aligning them with the ever-growing demands of digital transformation. Keeping up with this trend, innovation management software have become highly complex and highly adaptable, which also makes the task of choosing a product that best supports your organisation’s needs all the more difficult.

But if you are involved in managing innovation for your organisation and you have been set with the task to make this decision, the first question you should ask yourself is:

“Do we really need an innovation management tool?”

For example, is it the logical choice for your organisation at this time? Or are there other options you should be exploring before committing to an innovation management software.

The following 3 questions should help you take a step back and make a decision about the future of your innovation strategy, before taking the leap. They relate to 3 key dimensions of any innovation management programme:

 

First dimension: NEED ASSESSMENT

1. Does your company really need an innovation management software?

Perhaps this is the most obvious question of all, but to answer it, you need to first understand:

The innovation reality and current status of your company. There are several types of innovation, each one offering their own advantages and potential but also complementing one another, according to:

Nature
For some companies, disruptive innovation may be the most powerful approach to innovation-driven growth, as it creates new markets and value networks, eventually disrupting existing markets and value networks. It does indeed offer several benefits, such as enabling potentially fast market expansion and helping your company lead change as opposed to fearing it. Not all radical innovations are disruptive, though. Most, in fact, are not, but they represent a major technological breakthrough. Additionally, incremental innovation is built on a series of small, ongoing improvements or updates, rather than drastic changes. Not only is it typically more affordable, but it also makes ideas easier to sell.

Method used
Besides dedicated innovation labs, there are several methods used to help drive transformation that do not involve innovation management tools, such as:

  • The Design Thinking Method is a human-centred approach to innovation based on understanding people’s unmet needs and finding practical solutions for the consumer, combining inspiration, ideation and implementation;
  • The Lean Startup Method is founded on an iterative design process that uses short design cycles to rapidly test products or services, learn and then iterate to ensure the product is optimal for the market;
  • The Business Model Canvas is a visual chart based on an A4 canvas for developing new or documenting existing business models. The strategic management method includes elements such as value proposition, customers and finances.

Focus
Innovation can also mean several things and can be seen across several fronts that, when focused on individually, can be more effective. They include:

Framework with types of innovation

  • Product Innovation – besides inventing new products, product innovation also involves improving the design and function of existing products, and using new technologies and manufacturing processes.
  • Process Innovation – this type of innovation allows companies to add value for customers without having to radically change the company’s approach. New solutions or improving existing products can help drive growth and profitability.
  • Market Innovation – in order to meet customers’ buying preferences in various markets, market innovation entails implementing a new marketing method. This involves significant changes in product design, product placement, product promotion or pricing.
  • Organisational Innovation – by implementing a new organisation method in the undertaking of business practices, companies can see improved workplace dynamic and a more engaged workforce, and create a breeding ground for creative and innovative thinking embedded in the company culture.

Questioning the nature, method and focus of your current innovation initiatives will help you clear your head, clarify what is needed and set a path to make it evolve.

This brings us to: Who really needs it? Deciding for whom this tool will be useful will help you map expectations and the desired outcomes of the key players in the process. Only in this way is it possible to see if an innovation software can meet their needs.

You should also understand whether you have the right sponsorship at C-level or board level, and if not, whether you can get it. Innovation should be considered an asset for the business as a whole. A culture of innovation usually trickles down from the top, with the C-level and strategic players sharing the same vision and the main innovation goals. Framing innovation around the key concerns of your leaders – and presenting its potential results across all levels – will help them embrace your innovation programme. Every initiative should also have ambassadors to help drive the programme in different key departments and get people to work collaboratively. Get heads of sales, marketing, operations and human resources on board by listening to their most critical challenges and showing how innovation can enhance their work.

Above all, investment in innovation isn’t a one-time thing and usually implies investment across different fronts, mobilising different actors. It must be ongoing, enduring and be able to create an innovation culture that successfully involves the entire workforce. In this case, opting for an innovation tool to centralise efforts and allow everyone to take part in your innovation programme would make perfect sense for your company.

 

Second dimension: ESTABLISHED GOALS

2. What is the main goal in your innovation management programme?

This second question requires you to reflect on what you look to achieve with your innovation programme. An innovation management software can be useful if you are seeking to invest in collaborative innovation in an ongoing manner, allowing your organisation to collect, assess and develop ideas that create value for the company. It’s worth remembering that innovation management isn’t only about improving processes, products or even about organisational evolution. It is about finding business solutions, identifying markets or business models and improving customer experience, while leading trends and anticipating risks.

The tool will also allow you to create a strategic alignment, centralising the innovation process and streamlining it, offering tangible results in the process.

 

On a more human front, the results of an innovation management software are very relevant when it comes to the company’s workforce. When innovation is driven by the employees, it leads to higher engagement and therefore a higher overall return on your innovation efforts.

Your workforce is your organisation’s strongest asset, and their involvement through sharing ideas, improving the ideas of others – and being rewarded for it – is one of the best ways to ensure ongoing employee engagement.

By drawing on the wisdom of the crowd so that the whole becomes larger than the sum of its parts, this creates a culture of collaborative innovation from the bottom up. While the results can be manifested in both everyday changes and more transformational shifts, the insights and shared knowledge of the employees can help solve specific business challenges within your organisation.

An innovation management software not only allows you to draw valuable insights from within your organisation, but it also works to gather input from external sources, too.

An open approach to innovation allows you to expand your innovation community, increasing your reach and establishing connections outside the company, as well as recruiting new talent to the benefit of your organisation.

If you feel none of the above would ring true for your organisation and the reality of your innovation programme, there are other tools, methods and processes that would be a better fit to respond to your current goals.

Also depending on what type of knowledge specificity you are looking for and the audience you want to cover (more or less people), you should invest in different aspects:

Knowledge specificity in innovation initiatives

  • For more focused expertise, innovation labs or connections to innovation academies would be a fitting choice, for instance, with access to more technical research and specific knowledge;
  • For expert insights from a larger community, which draws on the collective expertise and experience of your work force and beyond – from ideators, commentators and achievers to gaining more critical insights –, an innovation software could be a good option, allowing businesses to evaluate and implement actionable ideas gathered from employees, customers and partners alike.
  • With an innovation software you can also target audiences for more complex challenges, or allow for expert-driven exploration or pure inspiration sharing, but its true potential lies in the capacity to reach and mobilise your whole community.

In this aspect, it is important to assess how large the group is expected to be and where they would be physically located. If the crowd is larger, an innovation software would make sense – by their nature, predictive markets, crowd mechanisms and gamification achieve better results with more participants. This isn’t to say that they cannot be used with smaller groups, but in this case, a more simplified option would be more adequate. Also, if you have a smaller group in one location, complementary methods such as brainstorming sessions, regular hackathons and ideation sessions can offer a good start to mobilising your team around innovation.

Location is another thing to consider – innovation management software can be used anywhere in the world, which opens the door to collaboration across different departments and locations, within the organisation or externally.

In this way, not only can you engage your community and benefit from the otherwise untapped wealth of knowledge of your people (whilst also helping develop and spot talent within your existing workforce), but it also allows you to use your network fully.

 

Third dimension: INNOVATION EXPERIENCE

3. Finally, do you and your team have previous experience in innovation management?

The third and final question touches on the subject of experience and preparedness. If you have no previous experience, it doesn’t mean it is too late to start. If, after the previous two questions, you feel this type of tool is relevant to your organisation as it takes its first steps in building a solid innovation programme, you should consider a more simplified version that has the capacity to evolve as your needs and requirements grow.

Level of experience in innovation initiatives
If you or your team members have used other tools, such as dated intranets, email inboxes and complex spreadsheets, you will understand the single largest challenge of most innovation initiatives: the sometimes complex, often time-consuming management tasks. This is where an innovation software will help you the most, by freeing your time and finding a highly efficient way to collect and assess those ideas, while keeping people coming and actively participating. Although an innovation software can be an option for gaining additional engagement or developing a more efficient process, it is always worth studying the collaborative features of each tool carefully.

If, on the other hand, your organisation has high levels of innovation maturity and you have used online tools previously, you may be looking to refine the process. To do this, first look at what went well and what could be improved, and understand the expectations of your innovation programme. Additionally, if you have already cultivated an innovation programme, it is worth understanding with potential software providers how you can integrate all the data and knowledge garnered previously to take you forward in this new chapter.

Whatever you decide, choosing a good innovation management software goes beyond looking at the technology – bearing in mind your specific needs and the reality of your company, you should choose a provider that can ensure an adequate service package that will guarantee your initiative is successful across the board and on an ongoing basis.

Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

 

6 key dimensions for yoru innovation management software

Why new product development fails and how innovation management can help

Product and brand failures occur on an ongoing basis, to varying degrees. They are part of the process of learning and growing. Innovation management can help organisations coordinate amongst themselves to tackle recurring new product development (NPD) challenges and maintain a transparent, company-wide innovation system.

To minimise these failures, remember first that the whole process of NPD requires a high degree of coordination between the top management and middle management, but also the person or department overseeing product development. All key players must be aligned in their needs and expectations.

 

How can idea management improve your odds of success?

Many times, a new product fails because it does not meet the expectations of the consumers. That often stems right from the beginning, when the wrong idea was allowed to grow.

Innovation management tools, such as idea management software, help optimise both the idea generation and the screening processes of NPD, but also prepare for and structure the following stages, on which the success of the final product depends.

An effective innovation management system can also prevent long gestation periods – reducing the time between conception and the final commercial product means companies do not miss their window of opportunity and keeps them ahead of the competition. This is why organisations apply innovation management to new product development.

Overall, focusing on product development through the lens of innovation management enables companies to be more agile and efficient when launching new products, reducing development time and thus meeting the shorter product life-cycle that today’s consumer demands.

Innovation management processes may therefore be key to formalising the strategic character of NPD, a vital component for organisations to maintain relevance and drive business growth.

Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

 

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Why your organisation should be applying innovation management to new product development

The pressure on businesses today is intense. To remain competitive, or even relevant, organisations must have the ability to innovate and to test, fail and succeed quicker in developing a new offering and new features. New product development can provide companies with fresh opportunities and has become increasingly crucial in the modern-day business battleground.

Not only has market competition increased, but more demanding consumer requirements are forcing companies to play a trump card time and time again. This involves being able to bring out new products at a faster pace to keep up with customers’ evolving needs and expectations.

Overall, the bar for standards of quality has been raised, along with that of price, performance and time-to-market. This reality doesn’t only apply to high tech companies, with their fast-changing business environments calling for shorter product life-cycles. It is today a keystone for any company, across sectors, to ensure survival.

A McKinsey survey shows that more than 25% of total revenue and profits across industries comes from the launch of new products. For this reason, organisations are constantly looking for ways to generate and execute new product ideas, while also mitigating risk and reducing costs.

 

What is NPD and how can it benefit from effective innovation?

New product development (NPD) is a structured process that involves bringing a new product or service to the market. It can be completely original or an existing product that has been adapted and improved.

However, of thousands of products, only a handful make it from conception to market: those that deliver superior value. This is why it is crucial to understand consumer preferences, markets and competitors to truly give them what they want or need.

A structured, customer-driven methodology to develop novel products – from the perception of a market need through to the production and sale of the product that meets that need – gives organisations vital competitive advantages. This complex process requires the involvement of several different areas, from management to research and development, but also marketing, production, purchasing, quality control, sales, consumers and suppliers.

Areas involved in New Product DevelopmentThe ultimate goal is to develop products more quickly, more efficiently and with less costs, tightening processes and cutting out extra steps. The application of innovation management in product development maximises companies’ dynamic abilities to become more competitive in the market.

It involves various fronts and actors, from initial market prospection through to product development. When it comes to the production and launch of new and competitive products, continuous, efficient innovation management enables companies to:

  • Quickly understand consumer trends
  • Cover stages of a product’s life-cycle over time, ensuring sustained success
  • Get equipped to be flexible if a crisis hits
  • Be faster than their competitors in entering new markets and exploring new opportunities.

But how exactly can we bring together NPD and Innovation Management? We will see that next.

Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

 

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The surprising building block for innovating in the digital age

What if we could get our people and partners to work and innovate together as one global team towards digital transformation? And to do it seamlessly across functions, regions and job titles? The scene is set in the recent Arthur D. Little report on how digital technologies will transform the way companies innovate. The research found that one of the most fundamental pillars for digital transformation lies, perhaps unexpectedly, in people’s collective intelligence.

According to the study “Innovating in the digital age – a cross-industry exploration”, 93% of companies agree that digital innovation will transform their organisation and the way innovation gets done. Almost all the participants expect to fully digitalise their innovation engine or even their entire company, yet 89% feel that current strategies are insufficient and successful digital innovation will require a new approach to innovation management.

 

Remember the human factor in digital transformation

Given this reality, the firm identified 9 building blocks that can improve the way businesses innovate. They include Big data/advanced analytics, Connected things, Cognitive, self-learning systems, Augmented reality, Virtual modelling/simulation, Additive manufacturing, Virtual workplace and eLearning.

Beyond these more technological assets, Collective intelligence/crowd-sourcing stands out as one of the most fundamental pillars and sources of innovation management in the digital age. Innovation interactions must therefore be promoted, allowing people to work seamlessly and effortlessly with anyone, anywhere.

The message is clear: in the age of digital transformation, businesses mustn’t forget that one of their greatest assets isn’t just technology, but also the human side of their organisations.

Companies can and should make people more effective innovators through a clever design of their digital environment, to leverage all their expertise and collective knowledge.

 

How digital unleashes your untapped Human Resources potential

By uniting technology and the wisdom of the crowd, gaining insights from the collective intelligence of both internal and external individuals brings a distinct benefit to the way companies innovate. While the advantages of drawing on the collective intelligence of an organisation’s workforce are well-documented, broadening the reach to external individuals through technology has also proven results for businesses today.

Looking beyond corporate walls, businesses can increase customer satisfaction, improve quality, and reduce cost and risk by bringing in and connecting stakeholders, such as suppliers, universities, labs and entrepreneurs, throughout the development process. This open innovation approach, which is enabled by specifically designed idea management tools and platforms, allows organisations to tap into the knowledge, insights and viewpoints of important external actors, building further value in their innovation programmes.

Driven by the input of both internal and external individuals, the adoption of an end-to-end business platform leads to faster and more efficient development of novel solutions, and reduced production costs through improved production output. Platforms such as Exago innovation management software can help focus a company’s collective intelligence on key business challenges, aligned with digital transformation purposes – something that innovation leaders today are discovering to ensure continuous and sustained success.

For further reading into how businesses today can innovate, take a look at our Innovation Library.
 

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Is Lean Management doomed in the age of Innovation?

It has been 30 years since the term Lean Management – a long-term approach that seeks to achieve incremental process changes to improve efficiency and quality – was first coined. Some say that Lean Management has now become obsolete. Others talk about a ‘post-Lean’ world and say it is fated to die. Yet in other circles, Lean Management still seems to be alive and well, with its potential to be fully revealed. The likes of Nike, FedEx, Intel and other global leaders are strong advocates of the method, and credit their continued success to its defining principles.

Based on his master’s thesis, John Krafcik introduced the term in his article “Triumph of the Lean Production System” in 1988. It described the comprehensive, multidimensional management methodology that enables companies to achieve exceptional performance in all areas through small, incremental improvements. The author was inspired by the Toyota Production System (TPS). TPS was developed by Japanese industrial engineer and businessman Taiichi Ohno, when he worked at the company as a quality engineer.

The model, which aimed to focus on reducing waste to improve customer experience, was replicated by the likes of Honda and other Japanese manufacturers. Soon after, beyond manufacturing, it became the standard for management across various industries. As an approach, Lean seeks to remove any waste of time, effort or costs by identifying each step in a business process to then eliminate those that do not create value.

 

The limits of Lean Management

Lean Management isn’t a failsafe methodology though. It can encounter certain limitations. They include low productivity, prolonged cycle time, costly organisation, and so on. At a time when digital and technological transformation introduce new, better and speedier processes, maintaining this approach requires resilience and periodical reviews. As it focuses efforts on existing processes, rather than what could potentially be there, Lean Management has also been accused of deterring innovation.

It is, however, simplistic to narrow down Lean to flow charts, Total Quality Management (TQM) and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), since it enhances the organisation’s capacity to evolve, creating a mentality of continuous improvement through incremental changes in all operations.

We must look at the bigger picture and focus on the ultimate goal of Lean: to deliver value to customers.

 

Is there a point of intersection between Lean and Innovation?

When it comes to ensuring the long-term survival of organisations, both Lean Management and Innovation have been touted as essential strategies to achieve that. Yet they seem to offer opposite paths, since Michael Porter divided the business world into cost-driven and innovation-driven models in his book Generic Strategies (1985). This classification still endures for many.

The argument goes that, on the one hand, being too lean may deteriorate the innovation capability of a company in the long run and hamper variation. On the other, focusing heavily on promoting personal creativity and innovative practices could result in high costs and excess waste for the company. In this sense, the approach adopted would be a reflection of very distinct company profiles, depending on each of their values and goals.

Nevertheless, others believe that, as “a practical set of principles and methodologies for continuously improving the operating performance of a company”, Lean is in fact process innovation. Process innovation is founded on improvement methodologies that extend across an organisation, with the goal of undertaking incremental processes by eliminating superfluous activities that do not add value. Essentially, it is about eliminating waste, continuously improving work processes and people – all of which is summed up in the Lean Management methodology.

So, can the two approaches be used simultaneously? Several authors and studies show that not only can Innovation Management (and particularly Collaborative Innovation) support Lean Management processes when the main goal is to ensure continuous improvement. But there are also other crossovers, at three different levels:

Crossovers between Lean and Innovation Management

 

Evidence of how an “Innovation Orientation” benefits Lean

A study by leading academics in the field has shown that the strategies of Lean Management (LM) and Innovation Orientation (IO) – founded on activities such as leadership for innovation, knowledge management, organisational structure and processes – do share many cultural similarities. When exploring the effects of IO on the implementation of Lean in international manufacturing, the study also demonstrates that these are complementary, rather than contradicting, strategies.

On its own, Lean is not sufficient to predict innovation performance. Managers are therefore advised to focus on IO due to its beneficial impacts on both the continuous improvement initiatives of LM and innovation performance. This reinforces the belief that placing an emphasis on more radical, and thus innovative, improvement rather than strictly incremental improvement (such as LM practices) supports both continuous and innovative improvement.

But why is this? Collaborative Innovation Management does in fact create a structure, mobilising a series of factors that are also crucial for Lean Management. This allows companies to create a system that enables them to evolve in an agile, consistent and continuous way. Both Innovation and Lean Management share several critical factors:

Critical factors shared by Lean and Innovation Management

Bearing this in mind, Lean Management does get stronger when combined with Innovation Management, something that managers have already understood. In a study to assess Lean’s impact on innovation processes, leaders showed a broad grasp of both the practical and theoretical approach to Lean and Innovation, along with greater reflection. It concluded that a positive combination of Lean and Innovation is possible. The consensus is that companies must achieve a balance between the two.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates forward, this could in fact become the age in which Lean Management evolves to a new stage where it meets Innovation Management in company operations – benefiting both approaches and overall business results.

 

Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO
Francisco Bernardes, Exago’s Head of Innovation Services

 
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