Last month I shared an initial introduction to Idea Management software and I wanted to build on this theme and hopefully help you as you begin to explore the various tools and solutions on the market. There are a number of specialist vendors in the market including Wazoku, BrightIdea, Spigit and Crowdicity. You can find a vendor list here.

What should you look for in an Idea Management solution?

As this isn’t yet a well understood marketplace, here are the features and functionality you should be looking for when exploring options for your organization (download this list here in pdf format):

Campaign/Challenge Focused – The solution should support the running of unlimited, targeted idea campaigns in to different communities of your choosing (whole company, teams, regions etc.). A campaign or challenge is a specific call for ideas against a specific focus area or topic. Ideas schemes that solicit unstructured and untargeted ideas will typically fail or stall as the ideas are not aligned to the needs, strategy or focus of the organisation. Running idea campaigns addresses this issue.

Personalised and branded for you – It is important that you create a brand, or set of brands, for your innovation activities, this could be a new brand for the business, align to an existing brand or be an extension of your core corporate branding. Either way, your ideation solution should align with it. Where you have different initiatives, and potentially brands, for your different idea campaigns (e.g. your Continuous Improvement brand, your Innovation brand, your Customer facing ideas etc.), the best tools will support multiple branding options for these (sub-)brands within a single platform.

Flexible & Configurable Workflows – The best systems should allow you to build your own innovation process for any given campaign or challenge. Some of your campaigns will only need a simple process for idea capture, evaluation and selection, but others will need more complex workflows and different stages of development. The best tools should allow you, with no specific technical know-how, to build your own process to achieve the desired outcomes from your innovation challenges.

Powerful Evaluation Tools – Beyond building your innovation framework and defining how the idea flow will work to capture, build, evaluate, refine and select ideas, it is important to ensure there are a range of different evaluation options to help engage your teams in the process of truly evaluating and developing ideas. Things to look out for include:

  • Can you define your own evaluation criteria on a challenge-by-challenge basis?
  • Can these criteria be quantitative or qualitative?
  • Are there other evaluation criteria for crowd evaluation e.g. voting (likes, dislikes, star ratings), ranking of ideas, pairwise voting (explained here).
  • Can you set up private review committees to allow for closed door evaluation and discussion of the ideas by defined groups? These are an important and safe space for you to evaluate ideas against defined business goals and criteria.
  • Can your tool support judging panels? Managing different groups online for feedback on all, or a sub-set of ideas, with defined evaluation criteria or questions, to provide data and feedback.
  • Can you route ideas based on categories or other criteria to different groups within the business, to ensure the right ideas are being seen and evaluated by the most relevant people/teams within your business.
  • Can you configure ideas for auto-review based on activity and/or time to reduce admin tasks. Task management capability should also provide auto-generated task reminders to evaluators to ensure ideas are evaluated in a timely manner.

A mix of social tools to drive engagement and collaboration – The true value of an idea management solution comes from the collaboration and engagement around every aspect of the platform. There are many different innovation archetypes and you should be seeking to encourage these different profiles to engage at the appropriate times and in the appropriate way. Social tools, beyond the evaluation tools outlined above, should include:

  • Voting: Vote and comment on idea to encourage collaboration and rapid development of the best ideas.
  • Development stages: existing ideas can be edited and revised, additional forms can be attached to gather more information, such as building a business case for the ideas against defined criteria.
  • Teams: Supports and encourages teams to form around ideas as they develop.
  • Sharing & notifications: Share to individuals, groups or everyone and follow challenges, ideas, conversations or content to stay engaged with relevant activity. @mentions on comments to engage specific members of the community and encourage participation from the right stakeholders.
  • Feedback & Notifications – In app, email and push notifications for relevant platform activity including idea activity and progression. Daily Summary providing personalised notifications for followed challenges and ideas and assigned tasks. Weekly Digest of platform-wide activity to keep your passive network engaged and returning to the platform. Task reminders to encourage the timely completion of tasks (i.e. ideas to evaluate or update).
  • Gamification – Identify key behaviours to encourage and assign points based on activity. Ensure you are getting the participation you desire by rewarding the associated activity. Define activity levels required to achieve defined recognition or rewards.

Integrations with enterprise social networks/tools: Seamless integration with other enterprise tools (e.g. Sharepoint, intranet, Yammer, Slack, Jive etc.) to ensure your challenges are visible and accessible where your stakeholders already conduct their everyday business.  For your external network, integration with social platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter to facilitate rapid on-boarding and wider engagement of your stakeholder groups.

  • Open API Platform – to pull data into existing management dashboards or other analytics tools or integrate with other tools in your portfolio mix.

Analytics & Data:  Ability to analyse, report and visualise what is happening for reporting, tracking and engagement purposes. Visualise your community activity to spot trends.

  • Analyse data platform-wide to identify general trends or for specific challenges/campaigns/communities to measure specific outcomes. View leaderboards to track key innovators and contributors in your community and trends in challenges and ideas. Export platform data to further analyse the data in your existing tools and systems.
  • Personalise your data – Embed analytics in different areas of the platform to put the relevant data in the proper context. Drag and drop dashboard widgets to make the most relevant easily accessible. Determine permission levels for different data to encourage transparency while maintaining necessary control over more sensitive information.

Innovate everywhere – Your solution should not limit you to only one community, the best tools support multiple communities (internal and external) under a single platform, enabling you to run challenges and co-creation activities with your partners, suppliers, customers, SMEs and even the wider world.

If you have suggestions for things that may be missing or if you want any clarification on the things listed here feel free to leave a comment below and I will endeavor to reply asap.