The future of innovation management software

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If you're involved in managing innovation for your organization, you're likely working with some form of enterprise innovation management software, or you're in the process of selecting a solution that can best support your needs.

To help you think about future needs with regard to managing innovation, I have identified five areas where I believe today's innovation management software needs to evolve to support the ever-expanding needs of the business with regard to digital transformation.

Before we explore how the software needs to evolve, it's worth noting that the first step for any organization is to define a program that addresses the five critical pillars of innovation management capability and then to fine-tune and adjust this program for the needs of digital transformation.

Clearly, the overall program goals and objectives should drive software decisions and not vice versa. If you're in the process of selecting software, be sure to evaluate according to your overall program needs -- and look well beyond the table stakes of idea management.

With this in mind, here are the five areas where I believe today's innovation management software needs to evolve over the next few years.

From incremental, value-chain focus to disruptive, ecosystem focus (strategy)

Despite all the attention on disruptive innovation, organizations still tend to focus 90% of their efforts on incremental innovation in products and services (i.e., core and adjacent initiatives) and only 10% of their efforts on truly disruptive innovation (i.e., transformational initiatives).

While innovation management software supports both types of innovation today, it also needs to embrace the more recent changes occurring in platform business models. This is an important shift, with IDC predicting that, by 2018, more than 50% of large enterprises -- and more than 80% of enterprises with advanced digital transformation strategies -- will create and/or partner with industry platforms.

As companies move toward platform business models as an emerging go-to-market approach, innovation software needs to incorporate new features and functions that will support this ecosystem-centric approach.

In "Digital business ecosystems and platforms: 5 new rules for innovators," I highlighted some of the new rules for innovators as organizations move further toward this model as a key part of their corporate strategy. As an example, if you're pursuing an industrial internet model similar to GE's Predix business model, your innovation processes will need to change to support and foster intra-ecosystem innovation for continuous and collaborative innovation with ecosystem partners. You can perhaps think of this as "open innovation" on steroids.

From 80% "ideate" to 80% "explore and scale" (people)

When we look at the work effort related to innovation management, we see that an organization today can spend something like 80% of its time on the heavy lifting related to idea management. This involves not just coming up with ideas, but managing them through the innovation pipeline to find the most promising ideas for subsequent execution.

While ideas themselves are often generated rapidly, it takes considerable time to rationalize the ideas and develop the most promising into a vision board, business model canvas or similar form of initial business case that the organization can then review in more depth and decide how to proceed.

Today's innovation management software does a good job of supporting idea management, but needs to expand to help companies focus their innovation teams more on deciding "where to play" and "how to scale" their big bets. If we can automate the idea-management function as much as possible -- for example, with intelligent automation to streamline processes and with analytics to aid decision making -- we can help free up resources to spend more time on the critical front-end and back-end components of the innovation life cycle.

evans future of innovation management software Image courtesy of Nicholas D. Evans

From ideation focus to end-to-end focus (process)

From a process perspective, innovation management software typically scores well on detailed definition and execution of the process steps underlying idea management. It scores less well in connecting the innovation process to the upstream strategy and downstream execution processes of the typical enterprise.

If we look at the overall marketplace today, the market for innovation management software is highly fragmented and centered on the "ideate" (i.e., idea management) portion of the innovation life cycle with, for the most part, limited vendor differentiation. In the future, innovation management software needs to provide more connectivity into the adjacent corporate processes of strategy and execution so that strategy can help to guide innovation, innovation can help to inform strategy and innovations can be successfully launched at speed and at scale.

From tactical enablers to next-generation enablers (technology)

When we look at the technology enablers used to support innovation processes, there's excellent use of social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies to support idea management, but this needs to expand to employ the next generation of technology enablers.

Today, there's plenty of use of social sharing capabilities, mobile application access and as-a-service software. Over the past 10 years, these enablers, while still highly valuable, have become table stakes, and we now need additional enablers which can further automate innovation processes and accelerate decision-making.

As an example, intelligent automation may be able to improve idea management functions with artificial intelligence-enabled idea consolidation to suggest which ideas might be worthy of combining. Intelligent automation may also be able to support "where to play" decisions in terms of robo-market intelligence software to aid manual market research and emerging technology tracking functions.

From internal platforms to ecosystem platforms (platform)

Finally, innovation management software needs to evolve from an internal platform approach to more of an ecosystem platform approach where there's a focus on continuous and collaborative innovation with customers and partners. This ecosystem approach is already available for targeted areas such as matchmaking between seekers and solvers for various innovation challenges, but needs to expand further to address all life-cycle elements from insights to ideas to impact.

Some of the leading players in the innovation management software arena are already embarking on this journey with a number of new capabilities as well as planned future enhancements in their product road maps. With continuous digital transformation being key to corporate survival, tapping into a new breed of innovation management software will be a valuable way to maximize your chances for success.

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