Digital transformation is changing the way we do business. Integrating digital technologies into all business areas fundamentally changes how organizations operate. Often requiring a meaningful cultural and behavioral shift, digital transformation can not only help you to streamline processes, save time and money, and increase profits but also enhances engagement and collaboration across your company.
With the understanding that technology plays a critical role in an organization's ability to evolve with the market and continually increase customer value, CIOs increasingly realize more significant value in innovation management software. Such software helps your company steer innovation efforts and identify emerging technologies, trends, and market potential to translate them into customized growth strategies.
Often referred to as the "fuzzy" front-end of innovation, the processes within innovation management are notorious for high levels of complexity and interconnectedness that often lead to unstructured approaches that are not resource-efficient. As a result, companies are increasingly entrusting software to provide clarity, transparency, and efficiency over the innovation management process, with the benefits of a structured and interlinked way of working that, enables strategic business capabilities.
Though its application is often limited to the business units responsible for innovation, end2end innovation management software sees transformational benefit when deployed across all business departments. It aligns the organization with information technology to accelerate business growth. To fully understand the value and possibilities of innovation management software, we explore six ways in which this technology can transform your organization:
1. Innovation culture: Fostering diversity and inclusion
There is a natural transition from generalist expertise to specialist proficiency to nurture market strengths and support targeted growth ambitions as companies grow. As a result, the conventional organizational hierarchies, structures, and ways of working that form the scaffolding of such an approach to business have formed and built siloed perspectives.
Consider your relationships at work. There are interactions between direct reports or managers that you report into where your input provides direct influence. Then there are those broader interchanges with those in other functions, units, or geographies whose work connects and affects yours somehow. Whether you are a manager, engineer, salesperson, or consultant, you will note that vertical relationships are prioritized in almost every instance.
Yet, there is compelling evidence that a diverse and inclusive workforce is a crucial driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale. Multiple voices unlock new perspectives and ideas to foster creativity and guide thinking towards creating new value. Today, most business growth and development opportunities lie at the edges and interfaces between functions, offices, or organizations. The integrated and multifaceted products and services that most customers desire and demand—but companies struggle to develop timeously—require horizontal collaboration. While most executives value the importance of breaking down silos to encourage cross-functional knowledge exchange and positive cooperation, they fail to make it happen.
To overcome the challenges of siloed thinking, organizations need platforms for interaction that encourage the embrace of new technologies, ignite the passion for knowledge, and aid creativity and serendipitous advances. Organizations are best equipped to spark the vital intersecting connections between functions and departments by implementing innovation management software across the enterprise. Software features that support and allow for structured and transparent collaboration nurture innovation culture by advocating and enabling efficient interdepartmental sharing of information and ideas. In this way, possibilities for new combinations of information and ideas expand the realm of what is considered possible.
Innovation management software nurtures innovation culture by:
- Inspiring individuals to be accountable for the organization's objectives, key focus areas, core capabilities, and commitments to stakeholders.
Helping individuals see where their work fits within the knowledge ecosystem and framework facilitates conversations and fosters relationships with colleagues in the internal innovation chain.
Opening up organizational space allows innovators to bypass barriers and hierarchies and sort through similar problems in parallel.
Cultivating relationships that extend beyond the boundaries of the organization acquires new knowledge.
Providing means to explore new constellations of related information in adjacent areas outside of the business interest.
This is not the wisdom of the crowd, but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It's not that the network itself is smart; it's that the individuals get smarter because they're connected to the network.
Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation
2. Data-driven insights: Empowering better decision-making
Exponential developments in digital technologies generate excessive amounts of data, making more information more accessible than ever before. The advent of the cloud and new technologies now allow firms to process and make sense of vast amounts of data quickly. The volume, velocity, variety, variability, veracity, visualization, and value of data are now considered to be new drivers of competitive advantage.
The accelerated pace of global change—now further exacerbated due to the pandemic's impact—has forced an essential and strategic shift in both business operations and decision-making:
Function-specific, and centralized decision-making lacking integrated input & capabilities sharing.
Cross-functional, decentralized decision-making driven by diverse perspectives & shared cost-benefit thinking.
Ivory Tower decision, where decision-makers are far removed from operational realities.
Frontline decisions with those closest to the customers.
Reactive decision making, often actioning initiatives misaligned to the business purpose, mission, goals, and values.
Proactive, outcome-focused planning that reflects the prioritization of business purpose, mission, goals, and values.
Siloed data, with access, limited to those who have researched and mined the information.
Integrated accessible data enriched through collaboration and available to empower all in resolving shared problems.
Not exempt from this transition, innovation practitioners are increasingly inundated with more and more data available to scan, scout, and analyze. The speed and success rate of innovation can be enhanced by studying data and its correlations to gain clear insights through analysis. Given the volume and ubiquity of available data, relying on data throughout the innovation management process may be a more pragmatic and reliable way to innovate than conventional techniques.
One of the most challenging questions organizations face is how to build a shared and accurate understanding of the future with the vast amount of data they have available at their fingertips. To take bold bets on the future, innovators need to filter through an excess of sources effectively in real-time. Precise and relevant information helps innovators steer organizations' next big assets with more accuracy and commitment collaboratively.
To accelerate moving data to insights, innovation teams must leverage emerging technologies to reduce complexity and uncertainty in the innovation process. Innovation management software offers potential solutions on these frontiers in two ways:
- Sourcing and storing relevant data at various stages of the innovation management process for shared access
- Consolidating multiple inputs to arrive at quantitative results that allow for unbiased decision-making
Innovation management software enables the transition from an offline, document-centric way of working to a data-centric approach that links information throughout the innovation process. Increasingly progressive innovation management software vendors are investigating the potential artificial intelligence [AI] and data-driven innovation have to offer. By partnering with innovation management software companies that have prioritized the integration of technologies such as Natural Language Processing [NLPP] and Machine Learning [ML], Innovators can scan and scout through vast amounts of qualified data, arrive at answers faster, and steer strategic decisions about the future with greater precision.
Innovation management software delivers data-driven insights by:
- Automating signal acquisition to scan and collect data from tens of thousands of verified sources so that you can drill down into relevant information quickly.
- Providing advanced search and filtering functionalities that allow users to navigate masses of information instantly.
- Centralizing research to build a unified insights ecosystem and establish standardized processes.
- Using visualizations for easy organization and analysis of data.
- Translating qualitative aspects of intuitive decision-making into quantified, measurable terms.
Digital is the age of innovation because creativity is about connecting the dots in the wider scope.
3. Engagement: Enabling participation and collaboration
Aside from breaking down organizational silos, organizations must create psychologically safe spaces for internal and external stakeholders to collaborate. As an integral contributor towards innovation success, collaboration enhances the quality and potential of innovation efforts by leveraging collective intelligence to enrich ideas and solutions. This is because innovation management is considered a process that holds a high number of social touchpoints. These social touchpoints are required to introduce fresh and diverse perspectives, balance decision-making with intuition, and apply creativity to bring ideas to life. Innovation is, in this way, often a connection of divergent thoughts, expertise, and skills brought together in new ways to deliver value.
Depending on the challenge to be solved or the opportunity to be harnessed, ideas and solutions can be sourced either internally or externally. Involving qualified participants with skills suited to each meet the requirements of each stage of the innovation process naturally increases the probability of arriving at a suitable solution while refining its contents along the way. As participation expands—from the boundaries of the innovation department through the organization and reaching to include customers, partners and investors—collaboration ensures that new ideas emerge, existing ideas are improved. Feedback is provided to enhance the selection and development of the best ideas. As individuals invest their time and thinking throughout the innovation process, a sense of joint ownership is engendered. This distributes the associated risk evenly to a more extensive set of stakeholders and encourages individuals within the network to share their expertise and opinion openly.
Promoting opportunities for participation throughout the innovation process is a precursor to successfully launching ideas in-market. Innovation management software facilitates transparent, cross-functional visibility of all activities within the innovation process and pipeline for stakeholders to generate and execute on an ongoing stream of new ideas that create value. With built-in communication threads and a system of notifications and announcements, innovation efforts can be gamified to motivate engagement and generate reports to acknowledge top contributors and reward them accordingly fairly.
Innovation management software enables participatory engagement by:
- Allowing for full transparency of company initiatives to enhance alignment towards strategic imperatives and ensure improved prioritization and resource allocation.
- Supplying an organized, secure collaboration space for idea generation and progress toward innovation.
- Enabling knowledge and document sharing, process optimization, and more efficient management of innovation projects.
- Providing a structured means to evaluate information, ideas, and initiatives for consensus based on quantified input.
- Monitoring participation to recognize and reward contributors.
Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
4. Strategic alignment: Uncovering internal synergies
According to PWC's 2019 Innovation Benchmark, 72% say they are not out-innovating their competition. Of this sample, 54% of executives say they struggle to align innovation strategy with business strategy. Furthermore, 65% of companies that invest over 15% of their revenue in innovation believe that aligning business strategy with innovation was their top management challenge. In such cases, where activities are not aligned to strategy, the efforts of individual units are not coordinated, resulting in conflicts, lost opportunities, and diminished performance. Misalignment between business strategy and innovation is most often caused by:
- Poor communication of the corporate vision and strategy
- Exploring innovation avenues and solutions for the wrong reasons
- Changes in leadership and failed continuity of projects
- Evaluation of ideas and projects without framing the context of its Horizon
Increasingly senior executives have come to recognize the role in communicating strategy, setting clear innovation objectives, and ensuring all efforts are aligned to head in the right direction. Strategic alignment of innovation programs ensures that the business no longer engages in reactive efforts. Instead, the approach looks to qualify phase-gate decisions by introducing means to track if initiatives remain on-course to mapped destinations. This means that all invested time, resources, and efforts in innovation are intentional and related to the organization's specific strategic ambitions.
When alignment is found, organizations benefit from the synchronization of efforts and the avoiding the duplication of initiatives that may have run parallel. Explicitly defining the role in setting, coordinating, and overseeing organizational strategy can achieve powerful cross-functional synergies that allow organizations to unlock unrealized potential. Because innovation cuts across functions, it is essential to take a synergistic approach in utilizing teams to increase performance, drive strategic growth and reach common goals.
Innovation management software supports the alignment of the activities within innovation processes with both the innovation strategy and greater organizational strategy. Software capabilities such as rating and evaluation, portfolio management, and roadmapping enable teams to visualize and recognize potential congruences and connections. When successfully implemented, innovation management software facilitates an interlinked way of working and translates strategic objectives into clear parameters that can be adhered to as a guide throughout the innovation process. Setting such qualifying metrics for various phase-gates allows the organization to follow, manage and monitor interactions and decisions at each stage with greater transparency, trust and confidence.
Innovation management software enables strategic alignment by:
- Communicating the company and innovation strategy clearly through a structured innovation portfolio and respective innovation objectives.
- Ensuring that all learning, questioning, ideating, experimenting, and venturing is done to pursue the shared corporate vision and mission.
- Setting processes and parameters that inherently guide activities towards desired outcomes.
Interlinking information at each stage of the innovation process to ensure a golden thread is maintained.
- Applying roadmapping to offer the organization a common language for innovation, building bridges between technologists, product developers, and business managers.
If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
5. Scalable systems: Establishing repeatable processes and a single point of truth
Conventional ways of working have been developed to support the operations and activities of each function separately. This closed approach has led to isolated communication channels and tools that do not connect with the rest of the business. As a result, many organizations struggle with information-related issues such as structuring multiple data sources, a lack of interdepartmental and team collaboration, poor data quality, and accessibility. More than this, companies often get locked into conducting a series of one-time innovation projects without the possibility of sharing best practice methodologies and learning derived out of previous efforts.
To scale innovation efforts effectively within the organization, it is essential to arrive upon repeatable, systematic processes that can be replicated across the business based on need. To support this, organizations must connect internal structures, processes, and tools and establish a single point of truth. The "single source of truth" is defined by InformationWeek as the "one source [of data] that everyone in a company agrees the real, trusted number for some operating data." This unified view provides a clearer picture of existing data within the business and highlights the areas that might require further optimization. Further, it allows decision-makers with the perspective to begin streamlining innovation processes that will have a broader impact across the various entities within the organization.
By implementing innovation management software, organizations establish a single point of truth for company-wide communication of documented processes, reliable data, and constructive collaboration. Unique to each vendor, innovation management software providers will often incorporate the methodology and process they advocate for into their product offering. Conversely, flexible, module-based offerings allow innovation teams greater opportunity to design workflows unique to their requirements. As a centralized information hub, many innovation management software providers have the capabilities to seamlessly connect with your existing business tools and processes to pull information from various sources and APIs into the system. Enabling such offers the organization greater shared benefits in process definition, scalability, and data exchange.
Innovation management software establishes a single point of truth by:
- Bringing all reliable data into a unified source for greater transparency, accessibility, and use.
- Delivering clear and accurate data to decision-makers in the form of answers to highly strategic questions.
- Advocating a systematic approach to innovation to ensure processes are repeatable and well-managed.
- Providing a centralized repository for knowledge sharing and collective wisdom on what has worked and what has not.
- Aggregating all innovation efforts across the business to visualize and realize synced efforts and benefits.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
Allegedly Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955), Mathematician
6. End2end perspective: Ensuring sustainable growth
Operationally business works to execute business models that have proven success on a repeated basis. And it is the primary focus of the organization to ensure that implementation of this is possible with as little disruption as possible. In this context, decision-makers are asked to reduce risk and provide added security to the business's financial model by placing safe bets that promise low to moderate rewards consistently. This is in contrast to the requirements of innovation, which is by its very nature experimental, high risk, and often holds a longer term to see Return on Investment. These conflicting priorities are that organizations frequently forgo opportunities to invest in or support potentially disruptive innovations, and projects are often killed too early on.
While managing the resource allocation afforded to innovation has always been a business priority, new methodologies and metrics are emerging to protect spending while still nurturing concepts in the early stages of development. By developing a systematic and structured approach to capturing, selecting, and developing ideas, organizations are better equipped to monitor resource allocation. Related projects and their associated investments are practically balanced across the business priorities and innovation horizons using portfolio management. Finally, a clear definition of stage gates allows innovation teams to introduce concepts of metered funding and innovation growth boards to support the phased allocation of funding.
Innovation Management Software offers organizations a protective incubation space where business decisions can be made based on criteria outside of pure profit requirements. Establishing criteria and standards at various phase gates will prevent any unqualified ideas or projects from moving forward. In much the same way, establishing criteria unique to the innovation objectives and priorities will ensure that ideas and projects are not prematurely terminated. By selecting a vendor that offers flexibility and configurability of processes, portfolio views, phase-gates, and qualifying criteria, innovation management software can protect ideas, support justified resource allocation, and ensure sustainable growth.
Innovation management software ensures sustainable growth by:
- Formalizing and introducing structure within the innovation system to arrive at reliable metrics as a precursor to success.
- Providing context and time framing to projects with the use of portfolio management matrices.
- Building evidence to secure management support to develop, assess, and realize ideas.
- Ensures that the right decisions are made at the right time to prevent opportunities from being missed and the early termination of ideas.
- Equipping executives with a holistic view of all innovation projects, activities, and information, end-to-end.
A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow.
ITONICS: Your digital toolbox for end-to-end innovation management
By implementing software, your organization can realize the positive and possibly transformational benefits outlined above.
The ITONICS Innovation OS supports the end-to-end innovation management process, from environmental scanning and trend and technology management to strategic foresight, strategic portfolio management, and roadmapping. Together with our clients, we shape the future by providing a systematic framework and single point of truth to steer innovation efforts.
Ready to radically upgrade your innovation process and capabilities? Our innovation management software has tons of features to streamline your innovation efforts, including:
- Real-time signals feed from patents, news, scientific publications, and reports to stay on top of change and disruption
- Collaboratively rate trends, technologies, risks, startups, and other drivers of change with other teams and experts
- Customizable Radar views to understand the potential impact of drivers of change at a glance
- Analyst-curated, industry-specific trend and technology content to kickstart your foresight journey
- Customizable ideation campaign templates to get started quickly
- Capture, evaluate, and prioritize ideas from internal and external sources
- Manage innovation projects, portfolios, and roadmaps
- Monitor and track project progress and performance
- Reports on innovation metrics and KPIs
Discover what a suitable innovation management software solution might look like for you and your team. Get started with a free demo today.
See the ITONICS Innovation OS in action