July 3

Bringing "agile" to innovation By Eugene | Innovation Management

“Execution is everything” – Michael Jordaan, renowned former CEO of the world’s most innovative bank – First National Bank. These were the foremost words of advice from Michael during the concept development of Nectir.

Innovation management software plays a major role in the process of creating an environment where innovation can bloom. It has the ability to create a fluid culture of innovation through:

  • Collection of ideas from employees,
  • Community review and manager selection of the best ideas to progress with,
  • Crowd sourcing ideas for the solving of business challenges,
  • Tangible employee engagement,
  • Strategy alignment and focused ideation,
  • Analysis and reporting

All of which can be automated through the smart use of social collaboration methods. But, what’s most important is that ideas turn into actual innovation. For this to happen people need to move ideas from concepts to execution. How they do this decides the level of success of their innovation efforts.

More success, more often.

“Fail often and early”, as John C. Maxwell says. To do this you have to create an environment that firstly allows for “often”, which means there needs to be many opportunities to create and test ideas. By implication this means a business needs a lot of ideas to start with. Secondly, “early” testing means two things – 1. a business needs to be able to pressure test an idea earlier in the decision-making process and 2. that testing also needs to be fast. The result is more success, more often.

Nectir has created the function called Sprints for idea execution, which is based on the agile process. Originally the agile process is a method of software development but is quickly becoming a broader principle of business development. It focuses on quick iterations of multidisciplinary teams to create solutions from problems. Barclays and ING are some of the many large corporates that are successfully implementing this as a method of working. (Watch ING’s agile process here.)

Innovating in a sprint.

The Sprints function means that dynamic, short-term, sprint teams can be created for multidisciplinary idea validation and planning. This stops the process of inter-departmental baton-passing and speeds up the per-idea-lifecycle from months to weeks. Also this means that instead of relying on different stages of disciplines to review and flesh out ideas there is only one. The total innovation lifecycle, using this method, is dramatically reduced.

How sprints in Nectir work

  • Selected ideas are promoted to a Sprint
  • Inter-departmental specialists are assigned an idea by a manager
  • The Sprint creators set key objectives and requirements for a business case (or proposal)
  • Sprint teams can post requests for help from the rest of the business – to quickly solve smaller pieces of the Sprint.
  • Sprint teams can set themselves tasks to complete before the end of the sprint
  • All sprint requirements are deadline driven to rapidly create viable business solutions

By creating an agile process within the innovation process, businesses can actively move ideas into execution by setting up more pockets of delivery than before. The process does not rely on older stage-gates and gives executives clear decision making across more implementation-ready ideas.

July 2

Innovation Management Software – the old and the new By Eugene | Innovation Management, The Platform

The genesis of Nectir began when an international bank, of 140,000 staff, tasked our founders to drive idea generation across their business. The objective of the bank was to build an innovation culture that makes them more innovative. We then set out to find innovation management software that was better than their internal system.

Two broad categories were available:

1. Generalist, low-tech idea submission systems

These were a myriad of idea mailboxes, basic Sharepoint submission tools and low-tech intranet pages

2. Specialist innovation project management

These were cloud-based systems largely designed and developed with the innovation cycle in mind. They have largely ignored why people innovate and were controlled (and overwhelmed) by a few users in charge of innovation.

Each came with a myriad of flaws in their concepts that prevented the natural uptake of real people, in real jobs, living real busy lives.

Generalist, low-tech idea boxes

The internal ideas box is simple – employees need to send their ideas to a committee. It’s rudimentary and offers little to no scalability or sustainability. Essentially the premise is that people submit ideas to what is often some type of review council. Most often a few people become responsible for the evaluation of ideas, often not in their core expertise and become inundated by a bottleneck of ideas that eventually get dropped or forgotten about.

Specialist innovation project management

For the most part these systems work on a stage-gate innovation cycle methodology. The process lends itself to whittling down ideas through a series of barriers. Later these systems evolved to include more comprehensive employee idea submission functions – but the core function of stage-gate remained and the uptake from the broader employee base was low – because of the complexity – originally designed for use by specialist users.

Differentiating Innovation Management Software from Idea Boxes and Project Management

It’s important to understand your core need for the system in its broadest sense – do you need the system to:

  • Simply collect ideas? (Idea submission)
  • Evaluate ideas? (Review and analysis)
  • Problem-solve? (Executive Challenges)
  • Create viable business solutions? (Execution)
  • Manage implementation? (Project Management)

To differentiate ideas boxes and innovation management software comes down to one function -the ability to move an idea from concept to a viable business solution. If a system misses the later, it’s more than likely just a fancy ideas box. However any further than creating a viable business solution, business case or proposal becomes the territory of project management systems.

A new breed of innovation management software

For the past four years Nectir has assessed the market, researched clients needs and developed a platform that intuitively and automatically manages the employee innovation cycle. Nectir does this point of creating a viable business solution. A modern innovation management system must be cloud-based, accessible and frequently used by all staff. It has to be built from the users’ perspective, continuously drive innovation and should support behaviour that forms an innovation culture.

Key attributes of Nectir in this development to move away from the old to the new have included:

We set out to ensure that we built one of the most advanced (but simple to use) ideas management systems. In order to create a class-leading innovation system we introduced Sprints. Sprinting is an agile process which allows for a far more dynamic innovation process that gets more ideas tested, faster. Here sprint teams can move selected ideas from concept to viable solution in a rapid, collaborative way.

Nectir has now used this rapid methodology throughout the innovation engine to ensure that ideas flow quickly from an employee’s mind to an executive’s desk.

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