Without an evaluation process, ideas, and innovation programs can fall of a cliff.
What makes ideas special relative to other user generated content is that ideas change things. Ideas put in motion a series of conversations and decisions about what the future will look like, and how you’ll achieve it.
For organizations, the broadening of the innovation effort brings employees (internally) and customers and partners (externally) into the process, which is a sea change from historical norms. This is crowdsourcing, this is social business, this is Enterprise 2.0.
This is not enough.
A chronic problem with the digital suggestion box is doing something about the top ideas that are submitted. How do organizations effectively work through the ideas to make them a reality?
That is the problem that tools like Spigit’s new release, Fusion, address. An evaluation workflow application enables organizations to accelerate innovation and ensure the best ideas are receiving the expert and management feedback they need for selection. Evaluation tasks can be assigned universally for every idea, or individually for any single idea. At any stage in the innovation lifecycle.
Evaluation tasks include:
- Structured questionnaires
- Word documents and Excel spreadsheets
- Requests for information
In this post, I want to describe the underpinnings for evaluation workflow applications. What is the job to be done??
The key activity of evaluation workflow applications is the evaluation of ideas. Here’s how evaluation is defined in this context:
The application of organizational criteria to advance the best ideas toward innovation projects
Evaluation is a critical phase in the innovation process. It’s the transition of an idea from an interesting concept that resonates with the community into a candidate for resources, time and prioritization. Evaluation is the organizational imprint applied to the future.
Key to understanding the value of evaluation is this: organizations are complex ecosystems. It’s not realistic to think major ideas will simply be accepted without scrutiny. As former Apple VP Don Norman wrote in Core77, “Why Great Ideas Can Fail“:
“A product, however, requires the support of the entire company: design and development, engineering and marketing, sales and service, supply chain and distribution chain. Products enter into a complex ecosystem, both within and outside the company. Successful products have to navigate a complex path. The idea and initial design is only one piece of the story.”
His observations apply to ideas addressing many different areas, not just products.
Here’s the thing about ideas. They have unique characteristics. Any two ideas, when looked at side-by-side, will address different areas. And require a mix of common evaluation tasks, but also evaluations which are specific to each.
To accommodate the need for idea-specific evaluations, Fusion incorporates the concept of adaptive case management (ACM). Mark Tamis describes ACM as follows:
“Adaptive Case Management empowers the Knowledge Worker; gathers step inputs as relevant (history, documents, issues etc); and lets her decide on the next step to take based on the outcome of the previous one. Best Practices as captured as templates, which in turn can be chosen an adapted as needed.”
In addition to evaluation tasks that apply to every idea, individual ideas can have a unique tailored set of tasks, added on demand, as needed.
In reviewing Fusion with a large organization, one innovation manager made a great observation. She noted that in the flow of the evaluation, the raw material for a business case is developed. That is a great insight.
The five different evaluation tasks allow organizations to consider ideas through multiple lenses: customer experience, product, logistics, marketing, finance, etc. Each brings a needed, and unique, perspective to an idea.
Critiques will surface the strengths of the idea, those factors where the organization can hang its hat. They also highlight areas of weakness that must be addressed if the idea is to be taken up and implemented. In aggregate, the different points of view are critical in considering the idea.
The expertise of employees is a top asset in organizations, one that the area of social business aims to integrate more deeply in a company’s operations. Organizations seek to bring this employee expertise to the forefront, regardless of company location, hierarchy or title.
Fusion aggregates the scorecard reviews provided by a network of experts into lightweight business intelligence. The considered opinion of the organization is converted into a single view, with the individual scorecard criteria provided.
Visually, the collective feedback of individual experts can be considered quickly, and in context. Innovation teams, business units and executives can size up the strengths and weaknesses of idea.
The ability to take in a deeper understanding for an idea quickly is particularly needed in large communities, where the volume of ideas can outpace individuals’ ability consider each one in full.
This application of business intelligence facilitates faster processing of ideas. It takes the tacit knowledge from employees’ heads, focuses it on the evaluation elements for an idea, and provides critical insight for the organization around each idea.
Change in global markets happens more rapidly now that it has in history. Which is putting a premium on moving forward with new innovations. Thus tempo is a focus area for organizations in their innovation programs.
There is little more damaging to an innovation program than having promising ideas, but the people who need to provide feedback do not respond. This puts a burden on innovation managers, business units and departments to spend too much time chasing down and tracking progress on ideas.
An evaluation workflow application working hand in hand with your idea management system can help your innovation program maintain its innovation tempo, retain a sense of urgency, and even provide an adaptive approach that organizations require in their innovation programs.
Hutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.