By Eric van Niekerk, Research Lead, Innocentrix

The power of disruptive innovation is being embraced all over the world in response to an increasingly competitive and dynamic market place. Harnessing sustainable innovation success however, can be a challenging process.

Sustainable innovation rarely happens in isolation, barring the necessity for, amongst other things, adequate resourcing, funding methodologies, ROI tracking and collaboration. It is becoming clear that thinking about the appropriate technologies in support of your innovation efforts are fast becoming a key strategic priority.

Organisations that use innovation management systems outperform their peers

The usefulness of innovation technology systems were recently highlighted by Strategy&, the global strategy and research firm formerly known as Booz & Company. In a study (PDF download) of 350 global organisations they found that those who made significant use of a digital technology system to manage innovation strategies were 77% more likely to outperform their competitors, than those who were moderate or light users of innovation technology systems.

Fact is, having a software tool, specifically the right software tool, can greatly accelerate your innovation results by creating an easily accessible and self-sustaining platform for ideation and innovation management. The innovation technology systems market, however, exploded over recent years. This explosion led to an influx of innovation management systems, resulting in a very crowded technological landscape that is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.

A myriad of options are available – and it is growing

At Innocentrix we regularly scan this market to assist clients to make the best possible innovation software decisions, linked to what they need to achieve. We found that to date, more than 80 possible innovation management systems are available and it is difficult to distinguish between them at a glance. One needs to understand the functionality on offer, your own specifications and requirements, the financial modelling options and know how this fits with the organisation’s current innovation maturity levels and future goals. Where to start is not always easy to figure out.

Build your own – hard but not impossible

Many organisations address this need by developing an innovation management technology in-house. Technology-driven organisations may have the ability to build such systems to suit their own needs, others may opt to out-source development to experts. Building your own is completely possible, but will pose some challenges as the cost and complexity of development could outweigh its immediate advantages. Also, as an organisation grows in terms of innovation maturity, certain aspects of the software may become redundant or lacking, and it will soon be necessary to update or re-create specific functionalities.

Still, having all the latest technologies at your fingertips will not guarantee successful innovation. Software tools may provide a very solid framework from which to grow innovation and save you from reinventing the wheel, but technological solutions are only as good as the people using them and the processes in support thereof.

Match tools and services to organisational maturity, needs and communities

Mismatching your employee culture, your business practices, target communities or reward processes for instance, could spell disaster or lead to unintended consequences that could be detrimental to your innovation programme. Understanding the innovation technological landscape before making a decision is a very good first step, but more important is the fact that the organisation’s innovation goals need to be fully understood and a road-map of requirements going forward be put in place.

According to the Forrester Wave report on Innovation Management Tools, there are several important factors to consider when choosing the right innovation management tool for your organisation, they mention some of the following high level criteria:

How to decide?

For SMME’s, or organisations starting with an innovation programme, these software tools should:

·        Be challenge orientated

·        Have defined workflows for different types of innovation programmes

·        Have a defined customer life cycle

For larger organisations with a higher level of innovation maturity, these tools should also:

·        Have more flexibility in underlying workflow tools

·        Have tools to manage a variety of innovation portfolios

·        Link to existing project management tools

Also think about reporting, mobility and flexibility

From Innocentrix’s perspective the following differentiating criteria should also be considered in the decision-making process:

·        Administrative control

·        Architecture & workflow

·        Systems integration

·        Reporting & analytics

·        Access and mobility

·        Organisational innovation maturity and system flexibility and do not forget about

·        User experience, methods of engagement and advisory support

Ultimately, choosing an innovation management system will depend on the organisation, its needs, innovation business case and budget.

With such a myriad of solutions and alternative options out there, those who are serious about innovation and real outcomes should first consider the value of the right innovation management system in support of their innovation programme.