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End-to-End Innovation: 3 Key Steps to Boost Your Innovation Process

Michelle Beale
22 Jun 22

What's the difference between a traditional innovation process covering ideas to projects and an end-to-end innovation approach from strategy to execution? The end-to-end approach will boost your return on innovation!

Economic uncertainties, constantly changing buyer behavior, and enormous competitive pressure have placed innovation as a strategic priority. Those who can come up with new products and business models in times of change and uncertainty emerge as winners in the battle for attractive future markets.

While Business-As-Usual offers economic security, the past few years have demonstrated that survival and success will be determined by the capacity to innovate effectively. With operations well-designed and adapted to existing business structures, many established companies still struggle with what Clayton Christensen coined 'The Innovator's Dilemma.'

To help organizations overcome this challenge, we at ITONICS have been asking the same set of questions:

  • How do companies build innovation capabilities?
  • How do companies set an innovation premium in-market?
  • How do companies sustain their ability to innovate?

Almost 15 years of experience working with global leaders in innovation, strategy, and growth has offered us some answers. Our observations and analysis point to the following conclusion:

The organizations most likely to succeed at setting an innovation premium in the market rely on a structured approach to innovation; supported by processes, methodologies, and tools designed to manage uncertainty and drive change.

Tagged under various labeled approaches such as Design Thinking, discovery-driven planning, Lean Startup, Hackathons, Nightmare Competitor, Blue Ocean, and the likes, each organization's set of innovation tools is unique. Depending on maturity, industry, and vertical, some tools work better than others. But: what is the glue between these tools, and how can organizations establish an innovation engine that constantly funnels a balanced innovation portfolio?.

Sustainable innovation management requires an interlinked way of working. The innovation strategy defines goals and sets the direction for execution. Efficient workflows make sense of and manage the ever-increasing data at every stage of innovation. Such workflows support strategic ambitions, nurture the innovation culture, enable planning, and guide implementation.

We have synthesized these perspectives into a unique end2end innovation process that supports corporate innovators in adapting these principles to increase the efficacy of their innovation efforts. In doing so, we have defined an innovation model covering all aspects from strategy to execution. We refer to this as the ITONICS Big Picture.

The ITONICS End2End Innovation Process

 

>> Download the Innovation Big Picture for free!


The ITONICS End-to-End Innovation Big Picture

The ITONICS Big Picture represents the end2end innovation model we advocate and forms the foundation on which the ITONICS Innovation OS is built.

Developed as a reference to best practice, the ITONICS Big Picture offers organizations a blueprint for innovation management and the guidance needed to apply processes, methodologies, and tools methodically.

The ITONICS Big Picture is designed to give organizations the ability to achieve three essential outcomes:

  1. Identify weak signals and understand drivers of change to discover opportunities for growth and define an agile innovation strategy.
  2. Unlock ideas and create the right concepts to solve specific challenges.
  3. And finally, execute a balanced innovation portfolio between quick wins and moonshots.

Supported by our software, the ITONICS Big Picture serves as a baseline for organizations to continuously build scalable capacity, cultivate innovation mindsets, and unify strategic information for transparent, effective communication of innovation strategy and all related activities.

The Three Key Steps of an End-to-End Innovation Process

Though the ITONICS Big Picture champions three main steps to boost your innovation process, we recognize that innovation is simply not a linear process. Of course, there are brief periods when projects flow logically and sequentially for some time. But we also know that a single market shift can send you off in a new direction overnight. Therefore, we find it much more useful to consider innovation as a continuous conversation between three facets of a successful business:

  • Continuously identifying opportunity spaces to guide strategic goals.
  • Developing new products and services at the right time and with the right market fit.
  • Operating a balanced innovation portfolio.

We call these steps "Where to Play," "How to Win," and "What to Execute." Every step is crucial for sustainable innovation performance. These steps represent a starting point and a structured means to think about innovation. In implementation, they are interconnected and iterative.ITONICS Big Picture: Three essential steps in the innovation process

1. Where to Play: Environmental Scanning and Strategic Foresight

Where to Play is characterized by the set of choices that focus on strategy and determine where the company will compete. The questions in this step narrow the competitive field and determine the direction for innovation. In which markets? With which customers and consumers? In which channels? In which product categories? And, at which vertical stage? Or stages of the industry to play?

This step leverages environmental scanning and continuous foresight to inform strategy.

By understanding emerging players in your field, shifts in other business environments, and competitor behavior, a business can identify weak signals that indicate new patterns of change. To do so, teams must be equipped to constantly scan, scout, and monitor developments within the scope of their innovation objectives. Through environmental scanning, teams can identify trends, emerging technologies, and startup activities to anticipate drivers of change.

ITONICS Innovation OS enables always-on environmental scanning.

AI-enabled, ITONICS Insights allows teams to extract critical market and tech intelligence fast and collaboratively. Using this module, teams can harness machine intelligence to gather and translate data to insight at scale.

Key features to get you started:

  • Real-time extraction of signals like scientific publications, news, patents, or startup updates
  • Meaningful visualizations
  • Powerful filter presets

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Once analyzed, insight is translated to foresight. Foresight refers to a structured and systematic way of identifying possible futures to be able to prepare accordingly. Underpinned by environmental scanning, foresight creates functional and operational views of alternative futures and possibilities using various methods, like scenarios. In this way, organizations are better equipped to adapt to change.

By considering the relevance, and associated impact related to the information gathered as well as the inter-connections between data points, teams are empowered to mitigate risk and derive fresh opportunity spaces. These opportunity spaces define the Where to Play step and form the foundations of the innovation strategy.

ITONICS Innovation OS provides foresight and analysis at a glance.

The ITONICS Radar consolidates layers of information into a single source of truth. Using this module, teams in innovation, strategy, and foresight can collaboratively evaluate how drivers of change will impact their business environment. With this input, dynamic and interactive Radar visualizations illustrate a focused vision of the future and accelerate opportunity identification.

Key features to get you started:

  • A portfolio of trends and emerging technologies, continuously updated for global relevance
  • Robust analytics, search, and visualizations
  • Shared views and reports
  • Collaborative ratings

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2. How to Win: Ideation


Where to Play
 defines strategic playing fields for growth; How to Win defines the possible routes for winning in these playing fields. To determine How to Win, an organization must decide what will enable it to create unique value and sustainably deliver that value to customers in a way that is distinct from the organization's competitors.

This step involves unlocking ideas through targeted innovation campaigns.

The activities in the How to Win step define the specific way in which an organization will apply its internal capabilities and advantages to generate unrivaled value for its customers and a solid return on investment. Therefore, generating ideas and concepts that answer identified customer challenges and needs is essential while establishing a unique market position.

With more ideas backed by diverse thinking, organizations are better positioned to progress to winning solutions. Targeted ideation campaigns bring the best minds together to surface ideas. Such campaigns leverage either closed or open innovation to capture new value and drive differentiation. Closed innovation relies on internal competencies, while open innovation looks to engage external audiences and startups to garner unique expertise and alternative perspectives.

Clearly defined idea management workflows and process phase gates work to enrich, evaluate and qualify concepts. Validated concepts are then used to form proposed innovation projects to take new products, services, and business models to market.

The How to Win step is executed from small, very detailed, and dedicated challenges with a few invited participants within one business unit to company-wide annual "big bets" challenges. Great examples come from CISCO, KTM, or Bosch.

ITONICS Innovation OS facilitates collaborative ideation campaigns.

ITONICS Campaigns unlocks ideas to set a distinctive advantage and amplifies the power of the crowd through collaborative ideation workflows. With unrivaled flexibility in configuration, best-practice blueprints, rights and roles, and analytics, ITONICS Campaigns allows you to set up hundreds of innovation campaigns in parallel in no time. This is the only collaborative ideation software, that works as corporate service towards all ideation needs in any country, business unit, or vertical. And the UX can be tailored to all your requirements for a seamless and motivating experience!

Key features to get you started:

  • Best practice templates and blueprints
  • Community engagement and gamification
  • Deep integrations and API
  • Seamless user experience, unrivaled configuration options

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3. What to Execute: Portfolio Management and Innovation Roadmapping

What to Execute brings prioritized innovation portfolios to life by mapping strategic projects to shared roadmaps for implementation. Roadmaps offer a visual representation of innovation activities and deliverables required to manage an organization's transition from its current state to a future state over a specific time period.

This step involves using innovation portfolio management to determine promising courses of action and streamlining strategic planning using roadmapping to ensure implementation aligns with strategy.

Effective implementation of the strategy relies on continuously making choices to win in the marketplace - in the short, mid, and long term. By collaboratively evaluating proposed innovation projects and portfolios, organizations are better equipped to selectively pursue initiatives that hold the greatest potential. It is essential to align innovation strategy with business goals, assess internal capabilities and match resources to selected initiatives on an ongoing basis. This is the task of (agile) innovation portfolio management.

As a critical component of the How to Win step, innovation portfolio management is a method for organizations to align innovation assets and capabilities with their strategic objectives. It entails selecting and prioritizing projects to identify gaps or redundancies, allocate finite resources, and balance growth initiatives within the business.

A balanced innovation portfolio strikes the right balance of core, adjacent, and transformational initiatives (see Three Horizons Model) across the organization. From a birds-eye perspective, teams can put the tools and capabilities to manage various innovation initiatives as parts of an integrated whole to achieve strategy effectively and ensure long-term return on investment. Rather than hoping that the organization's future will be derived from several ad hoc, stand-alone efforts that compete with one another for resources, innovation portfolio management considers growth strategy as a whole.

ITONICS Innovation OS supports strategic innovation portfolio management.

The ITONICS Portfolio connects goals and portfolios to enable impactful decision-making and effective action planning. Using this module, teams can aggregate project information to improve visibility, align strategic objectives with internal capabilities, and enhance prioritization.

Key features to get you started:

  • Interactive and configurable views
  • Robust reporting, analytics, and dashboards
  • Synergies identification, collaborative workspaces

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Teams must align efforts, identify synergies, and develop integrated project pipelines to implement innovation programs effectively. Roadmapping demonstrates how activities are aligned with strategy while communicating high-level goals and detailing the steps teams must take to achieve them.

Agile development, continuous foresight, and integrated feedback loops are used to update roadmaps as a living representation of growth strategy. This offers strategists an agile planning tool to communicate the direction products, technology, and innovation will take. Through the execution of planned activities, innovation portfolios are brought to life.

ITONICS Innovation OS streamlines strategic planning.

ITONICS Roadmap offers a dynamic online overview of the future landscape, prioritized growth plans, and innovation initiatives. Using this module, teams can monitor and prioritize innovation efforts to ensure execution excellence and accelerate time to market impact.

Key features to get you started:

  • Interactive and customizable views, visual planning, and editing
  • Strong analytics and reporting
  • Critical path analysis, collaborative planning

Learn more >>


To survive and thrive in-market, organizations must prepare systematically today to shape future success. Since innovation strategy is an iterative process in which the moving parts influence one another, it is often complex, dynamic, and even chaotic in execution.

All three steps, and their deep integration, are equally important to operate a world-class innovation management system. We see many organizations performing great in one or two of the three steps, but only a few with a strong focus on all three. Establishing all three steps and improving the maturity of these and their interfaces are fundamental for a sustainable innovation function. Being very good in the execution but not having a strong enough innovation pipeline will not deliver enough impact on a growth strategy. Having outstanding foresight capabilities and precise opportunity spaces for new business but no proper execution framework and culture will not deliver proper results.

You'll need all three. Assess your situation today, and start building your agile, integrated innovation framework!

Get a demo or start for free to learn more on how you can radically upgrade your innovation capabilities with the ITONICS Innovation OS.  

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