How do I digitize my innovation management?
Companies need innovations to remain in the market in the long term. IT-supported innovation management, which is based on innovation management software, can significantly increase the innovation potential of a company. In this article, you can read how to implement innovation management software and what has to be taken into account when introducing it.
How is innovation management software used?
Innovation management software is a dynamic tool that reduces the time required to develop an idea and bring products on the market by automating processes and facilitating collaborative collaboration.
Simple innovation management systems focus only on the systematic development of sustainable ideas. Innovation software is, therefore, often equated with idea management software. However, more comprehensive systems offer numerous other functions for digitizing innovation management, such as trend analyses, the derivation of search fields, and the collaborative handling of innovation projects.
The key components of innovation management software
Basically, the software of established providers can be optimally adapted to the individual requirements of a company. What an innovation management software should necessarily contain from our point of view, briefly in an overview:
1. Trend analyses
Trend analyses are the basis of systematic innovation management and initiate the innovation process. An innovation management software identifies and analyzes new trends from various data sources, such as patent databases, RSS feeds, and scientific publications. In this way, an initial evaluation or recommendation for action is possible.
In a second step, different types of trends such as megatrends, local microtrends, industry trends, technology trends are collaboratively discussed and evaluated regarding their impact on the company. That means that employees and managers from different departments enter their knowledge and observations on trends on a digital platform created for this purpose.
2. Deriving search fields
An innovation management software is adjusted to the innovation strategy and the related innovation goals. The software allows deriving search fields from the innovation strategy and the trends collected and then collaboratively discussed and analyzed. The search fields determine the design of the processes and structures within the innovation software as an innovation process for developing a new business model may follow a different logic than for product development.
3. Collaborative Idea Management
In the past, ideas were passed on to different departments through a variety of channels. The complex submission process created the risk of losing promising ideas. By providing a central platform for capturing, evaluating, and developing ideas, companies can find a structured way to innovate.
# Collecting ideas
One of the primary purposes of innovation software is to provide functions for capturing ideas for employees or a specific group. The software can determine who belongs to which group and assign access rights to members. Companies that want to expand their search can also use innovation software to collect ideas externally. External sourcing enables companies to collaborate with top talents and engage researchers, engineers, scientists, experts, and users from all over the world to drive innovation.
Companies also can choose between unstructured and structured methods of capturing ideas. The first approach allows an open submission of ideas by any contributor without restrictions. For a more individual approach, structured methods are more eligible as they follow a form-based process that is more restricting and specifies a topic in which ideas should be generated.
# Idea evaluation
The software automatically sorts and evaluates the submitted ideas which can be classified by business category, brand, applicant, or any other criteria defined by the company. The evaluation occurs by using a weighted system, which allows project managers to access the dashboard and identify the best evaluation ideas. Pre-defined criteria and an automated scoring system enable companies to bypass low scoring submissions and focus time and effort on developing the most promising ideas.
# Idea development
The next step in the innovation process is to advance world-class ideas through a workflow. The innovation software allows you to create a customized qualification process that filters ideas along the development pipeline and creates organized workflows by department, brand, idea type, etc. Supporting documents such as videos, images, text documents, and other files can be shared and viewed by the entire team. Besides, participants can control the progress of collaboration and workflow to see what are the next steps before proceeding.
4. Collaborative development of innovation projects
Professional innovation management systems also enable collaborative development from ideas to concepts and prototypes up to the handling of the entire innovation project. Customers and other stakeholders can be involved in the innovation processes with Open Innovation by being given access to software modules.
Success factors for the launch of innovation software
The implementation of innovation management software will only succeed if the project is actively communicated and promoted. Four particular factors are of great importance in this context:
1. Formulation of clear requirements for the software
In general, the innovation management software must correspond to the individual company's needs. First of all, it is necessary to analyze the existing innovation processes (especially those for generating ideas) and to optimize them by using benchmarking and best practice methods.
The more transparent and effective the evaluation of ideas should be, the more necessary it may be to define new roles and governance structures (e.g., innovation committees consisting of representatives from different functional areas and business units who evaluate ideas or mentors who advise idea generators and promote idea development). A tailor-made software platform is developed and implemented after the idea or innovation processes, new roles and clear assignment of responsibilities have been set up.
For example, user stories can be used to draft the requirements catalog, which is forwarded to the software provider. These stories represent the needs of the users on whose basis the innovation management software is developed. In order to include all perspectives, cross-departmental project groups (innovation management, marketing, sales) are recommended. An agile project management with Scrum has proven to be the best approach.
2. Management support
Top management's support is an important factor for a successful introduction of innovation management software and digitalization. Without this top-down approach, digitization projects are usually rejected.
For example, the management can promote the introduction of the software in meetings, newsletters or intranet by showing active support. Experience has shown that if top management is also personally involved by entering and commenting on ideas, acceptance among employees increases significantly.
3. Implementation support through internal communication
In addition to the promotion of the software by top management, the introduction should also be supported by internal communication measures. Employees need to understand why the tool is being introduced — understanding this "why" is essential to achieve broad acceptance for the tool.
Posters, internal events, idea challenges or workshops can support this process. Competitions, in particular, ensure a high level of informal internal communication. A peer group that is the first to use the tool and acts as a LEAD User can further accelerate the successful introduction by encouraging other employees to test the tool as well.
4. Campaign planning
After the launch of innovation management software, participation is generally high at first. Especially when there has not been a structured innovation process in the company before, employees are motivated to share their long-cherished ideas. After two to three months, however, the commitment often drops.
To counteract this, it is essential to plan long-term campaigns on various topics (e.g. quality assurance, sustainability, new business models, etc.) to ensure that the flow of ideas does not break off. Each campaign should last between four and eight weeks (e.g. 2 weeks lead time, 2 weeks discussion of ideas, 2 weeks evaluation of ideas and announcement of winners). These measures will ensure that the acceptance of innovation management software remains high in the long run.
Conclusion: More innovation with innovation management software
Modern innovation software can significantly improve innovation processes in terms of throughput time, decision transparency, planning security, visualization of activities, and cost-efficiency. An innovation management system is a dynamic tool that facilitates collaboration among a large number of employees and experts, provides an organized selection process, pushes and implements the best ideas, and helps keep trends and content up-to-date, which leads not only to better innovation but also to faster market entry. Competitive advantages can be secured and at the same time digitization can be anchored more effectively in the company.
Born in Lower Austria. At LEAD Innovation she works as Head of Innovation and focuses on agile innovation management via SCRUM.