How to Manage Innovation Effectively?
We all know by now that innovation is important for any organization to succeed, but how do you manage innovation to ensure it is supporting strategic goals and generating real business value? To make ideas pay for your organization you need a structured process that takes ideas from the drawing board, where they’re highly conceptual, through to the balance sheet where you can visibly report on the value they’ve generated. So, with that in mind, I am going to look at how exactly you can manage innovation effectively, with a focus on benefit realization.
Painstorming Vs Brainstorming
Firstly, let’s start at the beginning of the pipeline and examine how to manage your ideation process. No matter how you’re choosing to gather ideas, whether it’s through internal ideation workshops and hackathons or by engaging external stakeholders through Open Innovation, you need to know exactly what you want from them. Innovation teams can spend a lot of time trying to chase the next big thing and building out ‘sexy’ new solutions. While this can generate value and create disruptive innovation, you could possibly be missing out on small easy wins.
Rather than jumping straight into brainstorming, take the time to really look at the root of the issue. What exactly is the problem you’re trying to solve with this cycle of innovation. Taking this step back will give you a clearer idea about what you’re trying to achieve and provide some clarity around what a good solution looks like.
Not only will this in-depth exploration of your challenges provide a better quality of ideas being suggested, cutting down on your evaluation time, but it will also enable your innovation teams to submit ideas that will impact the strategic drivers of the business.
One way to effectively do this is to invest in innovation management software, which can make this process very easy for your organization. You can set up configurable forms that ask challenge creators key questions about the problem they are putting to the wider organization. This ensures every challenge has a clear structure and set of goals.
Business Case Management
Moving on from ideation, let’s look further down the funnel at the evaluation phase. In my experience, this a stumbling block for many organizations because they don’t use the right tools for the job and end up missing out on key benefits.
Business cases are an excellent tool for any organization, but I have seen time and time again many organizations are still not using them properly. They allow you to evaluate and justify an idea into a project, predicting when and where benefits will be realized and highlighting any potential delays. They prototype the ideas against the rigorous criteria that project managers will need to execute and deliver a well performing project.
Organizations tend to use word documents or excel templates to capture and manage their business cases. These are unstructured, hard to govern and lack transparency. Once completed they’re not referred back to and the organization loses out on the chance to demonstrate value to the business.
The insight business cases provide can not only accelerate approval times, getting ideas out on to the market faster, but they can also stop ideas from progressing further down the pipeline if they aren’t going to deliver the necessary benefits. This ability to keep or kill projects before they consume too many resources is invaluable to organizations on their transformation journey, making business cases an essential part of your innovation management process.
So, if word documents, excel sheets and SharePoint Lists aren’t the way to go, how can you effectively build business cases into your innovation management process? With business case software. Tools like edison365businesscase provide you with standardized process for creating business cases and a transparent and centralized platform to view your entire business case portfolio. Having a simplified view of all ongoing cases enables the delivery teams to prepare for upcoming projects and adjust resource allocations accordingly.
Connecting Delivery to Innovation
In my experience, innovation teams often feel like once the idea has been passed on to delivery, it’s now out of their hands and disappears into a black hole. However, this kind of thinking can actually be a detriment to innovation management. Delivery is the final and most important step within innovation management, it’s where the value is generated, and innovation teams need to have sight of that.
To effectively manage your innovation portfolio from end-to-end, you need to ensure that you’re continually looking back at the business cases to see if the project is still on track, and what benefits should you be expecting versus the benefits you’re achieving. This ensures that what ends up being executed is what was initially proposed, and that all the benefits aligned to the initial idea are fully realized. This is how you’ll make ideas pay.
Alongside this, giving your innovation teams sight of the project delivery portfolio means that they can check the status of their idea, report on it’s outcomes and use that insight to adjust the next cycle of innovation. No longer will ‘fail fast’ be your innovation team’s mantra, but rather they’ll be ‘learning fast’. This style of end-to-end innovation makes your portfolio a lot more adaptable and means that you’ll be able to deliver value based on previous successes.
In conclusion, there are many ways that you can effectively manage your innovation process, but to truly generate value, you have to address every single stage of the pipeline to ensure that you can take an idea from the drawing board through to the balance sheet. Using an end-to-end platform that can give your organization a structured, transparent, and centralized method to drive change is a good stepping-stone to developing a robust end-to-end process for innovation.
The edison365 suite is an end-to-end innovation and delivery platform built for Microsoft 365. It can give you a complete, connected view of every idea captured from your workforce in edison365ideas, an ideation software. These can then be business case evaluated (if the project scale warrants the extra step – not every project does) and finally turned into robust, transparent, and manageable projects that once delivered provide the full anticipated benefits outlined in the original business case.
As a passionate innovation and technology evangelist, Tad is the Executive Vice President at edison365, working with some of the most innovative companies in the world, every day. With years of experience in change management and business building, Tad has plenty of transformation stories to share in manufacturing, engineering, financial services plus health and life sciences. A long tenure at Microsoft, at the front-end of innovation and project management software delivery, helped him see what it means to transform and deliver at scale.