The space for idea and innovation management software is becoming increasingly crowded and it is difficult to quickly understand who the main players are and how they are different.
On the surface, idea management companies seemed similar to me and were hard to tell apart. After having spent 8 weeks immersed in the space talking with independent experts like Ron Shulkin, submitting questions on LinkedIn groups, attending the Front End of Innovation conference in Boston, and demoing eight of the top players; I have come to a conclusion: It IS very hard to tell idea management companies apart – especially on capabilities alone. You must dig deep into the details of the organization and trust some of your gut feelings for the true differences to emerge.
All four parts of my research (reaching out to experts in the field, submitting questions online, attending innovation conferences, and completing demos) added value to my search. However upon completing my summary, I realized that everyone I talked with could easily achieve my sample list of desired functionality (see below for the attachment if interested). I had attempted to create a functionality list that would force separation between competitors. However, I quickly found that most “on the shelf” options could already achieve 90% of my desires and it would be quick for each company to add in the remaining 10%.
So where did I end up finding differences?
1. Cost structure
- Some companies charge a per user monthly rate typically around $4 per user per month. 500 users would cost ~$24,000 per year
- Some companies charge an annual fee based on the number of users (500-1500 users was typically quoted around $40k-$80k annually)
- Others charge a one time fee for the software ($50k-$80k and ask for around 20% of that fee annually for all updates and simple software maintenance
2. Amount of experience and current clients
- A few players have been around for 10+ years and have a lot of great trial and error experience
- Others have joined the space more recently but appear to have adopted most of the best practices and have added in some innovative functionality
3. Gut feel for the organizational strengths and future focus
- Did they seem to be focused on the business/ financial aspects of using the tool or was the motivation geared more towards improving the company culture?
- I found this was actually the most useful analysis for helping to make a case for choosing one tool over another
Top Five Roundup:
I want to give a quick foreword before sharing my opinion of each specific company:
I was very impressed with every company that I met or talked with. Idea and innovation management tools are needed in industry and will improve the way employees share and build upon their thoughts within their organization. I do not believe that you could go wrong in selecting any of the companies mentioned below.
I have created a two word summary for the five companies that stood out most to me based on my gut feel. I will also share a few strengths that I feel are important. As always, I encourage you to click on the company links and experience their tools for yourself. They are listed alphabetically.
BrightIdea – Inspiring Intrapreneurship
- Fast paced, interactive demo with high energy staff
- 10+ years experience
- Constantly innovating their offering
- Very quick to implement the tool internally
CogniStreamer – Simple Intelligence
- Intelligent spotting of like minded people and ideas
- Smooth graphical feel
- Solid front end thoughts on innovation
Hype IMT – Software Flexibility
- You own the software
- It can be customized anyway you can imagine
- Smooth graphical feel
Imaginatik – Consulting Confidence
- 10+ years experience
- Strong consulting background
- Very well thought out to maximize your desired outcomes
- Many best practices based on large international clients
Spigit – Business Savvy
- Newer and slightly more innovative approach
- Very strong business drive
- They have significant financial support likely ensuring they will continue to be a main contender over the next few years
There are others in the space that are worth mentioning, but did not hit the summary above for various reasons (one reason being that I ran out of time for completing demos).
Idea and Innovation Management Tools:
BrainBank – I did not demo the product, but during conversations the founder came off as very intelligent about the needs of the tool and appears to be driven more by passion then by finances.
Kindling – Very simple, graphically smooth interface. Appears to offer the same powerful functionality as the 5 companies I reviewed above.
NOSCO – Also appears to offer the same powerful functionality as the 5 companies I reviewed above. NOSCO is also very active on LinkedIn and is contributing a significant amount of knowledge to the innovation community. The fun graphic below has been put together by their group depicting the entire idea management process.
Knowledge Management / Idea Creation Tools:
Huddle – A web based, low cost tool that seems to come out with new functionality every week. Seems to offers similar capabilities to Microsoft SharePoint. Huddle supports mobile devices (iphone for example) and allows connecting via LinkedIn systems.
Invention Machine – It appears to be a fantastic product for searching through internal and external information quickly and then tying it into a new idea. Currently the product seems more focused on helping people to create ideas not on managing and filtering ideas internally. I believe future updates to the software may continue to add that functionality.
Traction – Very solid knowledge management tool with some abilities to create ideas and add to them. The government is one of their main clients. Information felt available and secure, but the tool didn’t seem to fit the specific need I was investigating.
External/ Open Innovation:
Hypios – Newer to the external innovation space (at least in the US), Hypios appears to be following an approach similar to InnoCentive’s open innovation approach.
IdeaConnection – A bit of “wisdom of the crowd” meets “intelligent team building”.
IdeaConnection will pull from thousands of external people to assemble a small team of talent that appears to have the right skills to solve the problem statement. Project moves on a predetermined timeline.
InnoCentive – Seems to be the juggernaut of the “wisdom of the crowd” open innovation approach. Submit a problem statement to over a hundred thousand external people and allow anyone to attempt to solve the problem (for an award).
NineSigma – A bit more custom/ hands on approach to external innovation. NineSigma employees actually do the initial searching to identify new technologies and companies that can solve your problems.
Whew… that was a lot to cover in one shot. Hopefully you found value in my initial assessment of the idea and innovation management tool space. Please use the comments section to publicly agree, disagree, or add onto any of my thoughts. Thanks.
Geoff Zoeckler is a young, passionate innovator with 7+ years in product development roles leading the front end of innovation. Geoff is looking to connect to share personal insights to improve corporate innovation culture from the bottom up.