Gartner has moved Idea Management into “The Slope of Enlightment’ on their newly released Hype Cycle for 2011. That’s great news for the industry and certainly something we experience in our everyday.
Analysis By: Carol Rozwell
Definition: Idea management is a structured process of generating, capturing, discussing and improving, organizing, evaluating and prioritizing valuable insight or alternative thinking that would otherwise not have emerged through normal processes. Idea management tools provide: support for communities (in originating and building out promising ideas); administrative support (for capturing ideas and enabling innovation leaders to organize and track ideas); and analytical support (for aggregating, refining, scoring, voting, prioritizing and measuring) for the leaders and participants of innovation or ideation programs. These tools are typically used for focused innovation campaigns or events, but most also enable continuous idea generation. These tools offer a wide array of approaches to idea management, such as running innovation events or campaigns, crowdsourcing (aka idea marketplaces) and creating prediction markets. Most tools allow participation by internal and external participants and support multiple administrators. Vendors offer owned, hosted or software as a service (SaaS) versions of their tools — and often implementation support and consulting services.
Position and Adoption Speed Justification: Companies in a wide variety of industries use idea management as a way to bolster innovation that drives sales of existing products, creates new opportunities to increase revenue, or radically changes process or cost structure. Industries that emphasize new product development were the earliest adopters of idea management tools. In addition to tools from vendors specifically designed to support innovation management, collaboration platform vendors provide ideation modules for their offerings. The growth in vendors and success stories for idea management drive interest in innovation and confidence in engaging employees, customers and others in idea generation and evaluation. The current landscape is studded with many vendors that offer a common set of functionalities. The Web seems tailor made to enable idea management marketplaces across enterprise ecosystems, and continually provides access to new sources of ideas and innovations.
User Advice: Organizations establish innovation programs with a great fanfare, succeed at generating ample ideas, and then have difficulty sustaining the momentum through implementation. Users should address the organizational and cultural issues of innovation management. They should also identify the scope, participants and processes envisioned for idea generation programs before attempting to select an idea management tool.
Organizations that plan to use idea management tools as a front end to new product or service development, should also ensure that those tools can be integrated with community, product life cycle and project management tools.
Organizations that consider idea management as part of an overall collaboration platform, should ensure integration with directory services and other technical and functional features of collaboration.
Finally, with the growth and rapid evolution of idea management approaches and technology, organizations should evaluate whether these tools should be internally owned and managed — or whether hosted or SaaS versions are viable options.
Business Impact: Idea management tools were initially used to facilitate an online “suggestion box” (adding the advanced synergy, features and functions made possible by the Web), plus events or campaigns implemented under the auspices of innovation programs. Today, these tools are used in broad organizational programs that include internal and external users; full enterprises or individual departments; and organizations looking for product, process or services innovation.
Idea management tools can also enable organizations to segregate sources of ideas (such as employee versus customer ideas); separate types of ideas (such as product versus process ideas); and even aggregate multiple ideas into one. The proper handling of ideas is one of the most critical aspects of successful innovation programs; users have a large number of choices and, therefore, the requirement to plan and execute well. Idea management tools also facilitate the process of publicizing campaigns and events (so they get a wide range of participants and input), evaluating and building on the ideas submitted, acknowledging the submissions and archiving valuable information.