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Innovation – Innovation Management Platforms – Part 2

In the previous article I started with a discussion around Innovation Management Platforms (IMP).  Just to recap, an IMP is a software system that provides an organisation with the functionality to manage, monitor and implement innovation in a structured way. It provides structure, discipline, clear milestones and metrics to what may otherwise be a very qualitative and unstructured process and it relieves the administrative burden that comes with the innovation management processes.  In this article I will discuss how the organisation can go about to choose the right IMP for their innovation effort.
How to choose an Idea Management Platforms
There are many approaches with regards to selecting the right IT application for a specific task.  Figuring out exactly what the system must do is a very important step of the selection process.  This lays the foundation for all the other decisions that have to be taken, i.e. the budget you are prepared to commit, the required functionality of the system, the complexity of the system, etc.  I always recommend, and this is applicable to the acquisition of any IT system, first figure out exactly what the system must do for the organisation, in as much detail as possible up to business process level, before even starting to look at what is available in the market. I have seen a scenario where executives took a decision to buy a specific system based on the reporting functionality, but they did not take into consideration that their business processes were not aligned to generate the information required to compile the fancy reports.  It took a major effort to rework their business processes to generate the required information and this almost killed the project.  
IMPs range from very simple to very complex.  My advice would be to look at the organisation’s innovation maturity.  If maturity is low, start with a simple system that is very user friendly, nothing scares of users more than a complicated interface that creates confusion.  If maturity is high and you have an established innovation process that is driven as a business discipline (as explained in previous articles), one can look at a more complex system that provides more functionality.  
At minimum, any IMP should provide the following functionality:   Idea Generation, Idea Capture, Idea Collaboration and Development, Idea Assessment, Idea Implementation, Idea Outcomes Monitoring and Metrics and Measures to monitor the flow of ideas through the ‘idea pipeline’ and to determine the business value of the idea generation and implementation process.  Basically, an IMP must put in place systems and processes to implement a ‘stage-gate’ or idea funnel process where ideas are systematically filtered and assessed against criteria and only the most valuable ones are implemented and put into practice.
The architecture of the system is also important when considering an IMP.  Will it be a hosted service, or will it run on the organisation’s in-house infrastructure.  With cloud computing being the norm these days, most of the IMPs are hosted as a software-as-a-service platform on the Internet.  The functionality and costs of these system are scalable and this makes it very practical to start slow (and cheap) and gradually grow into using the more advanced functionality.  There are also IMPs available that are compatible with some of the more popular enterprise accounting- and ERP systems.  These systems have the same “look and feel” as the enterprise system that the employees are used to and adoption of these kinds of systems are usually faster than a totally new system.
Next Time
I have covered the idea generation phase and the use of IMPs.  Now that lots of ideas have been generated, the ideas need to be reviewed and the best ideas selected.  Although this might seem like a straightforward activity, a structured and well thought out process here will be very helpful, so in the next issue, I will discuss idea evaluation and selection.  I conclude with a point to ponder by Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas.  If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

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