While no software will automatically make innovation happen, the right tools can still be a tremendous asset in capturing and refining valuable knowledge within your organization and turning that knowledge into innovations.
For many companies, innovation is one of the major business objectives and central to business transformation. According to Forrester, over 50% of global business influencers are investing in technology to drive innovation.
However, choosing the right tool can be challenging as there are many great innovation management software to choose from.
Instead of picking the first solution that promises to fulfill all your innovation dreams, paying attention to those that work seamlessly with your existing processes helps you to ensure that your specific innovation needs are met now – as well as in the future.
Without further ado, here are some aspects to consider when choosing a dedicated innovation management solution.
1. Chart your goals
Although you may have a few innovation tools in mind that you’re excited to try, the first and probably the most important step towards finding the right one is to take a step back and clarify your goals and expectations.
What do you want to achieve with the tool in the short term? How about in the long term? Are your goals supporting your strategy? What metrics should you use while measuring the impact of your innovation activities?
By setting concrete, meaningful and relevant goals, you’re forced to pay attention to things that reveal whether the innovation tool actually helps you to achieve your objectives. In addition, you’ll see if it has other positive ripple effects.
2. Define your use case
Because there are several different use cases for managing ideas, it's smart to consider tools that are versatile and work for a variety of different innovation purposes.
Use cases can range from gathering smaller incremental improvement suggestions from employees to capturing tacit knowledge that can be utilized across the organization. It can also mean including multi-dimensional set of processes that involves multiple teams, business units and divisions in a collaborative strategy process.
Needless to say, having a separate tool for each use case will only confuse users. Therefore, whichever innovation management solution you end up testing, make sure it works for all of your innovation uses.
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3. Educate yourself on different options: What characteristics and features to look for?
First and foremost, a good innovation management solution is engaging and easy to use. It encourages transparent feedback and evaluation of ideas and is mobile and easily accessible.
In addition, the tool should be scalable and process-driven. This means that it facilitates a systematic process for developing the gathered ideas, which is necessary if you want to drive business process success.
When you’re gathering information about different solutions, pay attention to the core product and evaluate how well the "out of the box" solution meets your requirements. If the tool will only work for your purposes with heavy customization, make sure you’re comfortable with paying some extra without the guarantee that it’ll actually work.
In addition, be prepared to the fact that each change to the core solution will require more time and money, which increases the total cost of ownership.
Try to look for innovation tools that are easily managed and configured regardless of the size and scope of your innovation network. Also, make sure the tool meets your key technology requirements, such as certain integrations.
4. Compare different software vendors
The most important thing to keep in mind when comparing different idea management software vendors is to remember to compare these with the exact same criteria. If you’re using different criteria to compare different solutions, it will be extremely difficult to make any type of comparison.
Instead of just looking at the offering, pay close attention to the vendor as well. What type of support do they provide? Is their website professional and easy to navigate? How frequently are there new releases? Does the vendor provide any supporting material, or perhaps a knowledge portal to help you get started?
When comparing different vendors, keep in mind that the most expensive innovation management software provider isn’t always the best one. Although price doesn't guarantee quality and should not be the primary factor when making a decision, it certainly matters and is good to keep mind so that you don’t end up paying for features you have no use for.
5. Pilot potential software
The best and the only way to see how different types of solutions work with your processes in real life is to pilot the most promising ones. Piloting should be as much about testing your assumptions as it is about testing the actual tool. Because there will always be factors we forget to consider when making decisions, piloting might reveal something about our innovation management processes we aren’t even aware of.
Remember, that the best vendors offer to pilot their product easily and for free. Start with a smaller team or business unit to gather real user experiences about the tool and how it works with your existing and desired processes.
Ask for user feedback about the usability and what makes your team motivated to use the tool. What are the pros and cons of the specific solution? Did you face any challenges during your pilot and if so, what type of challenges?
Although innovation is as successful as your process behind it, the right tool most certainly helps getting more out of that process. Also, the sooner you start the sooner you’ll be able to see results.
The aforementioned steps towards finding the right solution for your innovation purposes aren’t necessarily difficult themselves. But, getting it right requires a systematic approach. This is why you should keep piloting different options until you know what really works.