Tag Archive for Idea management

Cim for New Market Innovation: Tap User Stories

Which comes first, new products or new markets?  In my last blog I did a primer on Cim for New Products.  While that is the deliverable, there is a great deal of research that says that the place to start is with new market innovations vs. new products.  In this article, I’ll provide some background from the marketing literature over the last 50 years and how CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint can be leveraged to tap your workforce to get vivid User Stories that fuel new market innovations and drive new product innovation.

It Started with Marketing Myopia in 1960

Ted Levitt is acknowledged to have started the “re-invention” of modern marketing/product management with his paper called Marketing Myopia in 1960 (Harvard business Review).  The premise was that existing marketing was based upon data which really didn’t provide you with the information to think of and develop new products and effective marketing.  Our way of thinking was too narrow, too product centric, too data centric.  A famous line by Mr. Levitt was “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill.  They want a quarter-inch hole.”  It is not about the product; it is about the customer and what they want.

This basic idea has been explored and expanded over the last 50 years.  In the high-tech industry, Geoffrey Moore in his classic Crossing the Chasm (1991) applied this approach to a new theory of high-tech market development.  In it, he talks about target-customer scenarios vs. classic demographic market segmentation.  Clayton Christenson takes it further in his popular book Innovator’s Solution (2003) to talk about circumstance based marketing as the core for disruptive new product innovation.


In effect, all three authors are saying that new products and markets don’t get discovered by reviewing quantitative data or doing data-oriented segmentation.  The secret is by qualitatively learning what job a user would “hire” a product to do for them.  This is what a market really is, those people that would all hire your product to do x for them.  The results are often surprising, and, the basis for extreme innovation.

A great number of marketers will tell you that they understand and agree with this theory.  Some practice it.  It is hard.  It’s practice takes time: work to collect the qualitative information and to evaluate and understand the circumstances, and then, the time to figure out the products.  Mr. Christensen even goes as far as to say the following:

“corporate IT systems and the CIO’s who administer them figure among the most important contributors to failure in innovation.” 

Wow! In a nutshell, he states that this is because IT is the owner of the data and usually good at serving it up, but, fail to have systems to serve the needs of this other type of approach to market/product innovation.  But, these days we have a whole new set of tools, like CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint, and we have the potential to use them differently.  Sometimes simple applications can really fuel powerful innovation.


A new start – Cim for User Stories

So, you are in marketing/product management and are a believer in the theory of these authors.  How can you apply it?  Let’s try a different approach leveraging Cim on SharePoint. 


Imagine that you do not go out and ask your 5,000 employees to give you their ideas for new products.  Instead you set up a User Story campaign.  You ask them to write up stories from actual customers about how they are using your product. You give them 30 days.  Using Cim you make it very easy for your salespeople, customer service reps and any customer facing people to tell a story.  They can read each others stories. They can rate them, comment on them, and cross-reference them.   You can offer rewards and incentives.  You’ll get stories, and, they will amaze you.  Then, you start to categorize them, evaluate them, explore them.

You can then build “Personas” around the characters in the stories.  You can go out and present the Personas to your people and have them vett them and the stories as to which jobs they are doing are most valuable.  Now, you are really leveraging your people and engaging them.

Next, you can go back out and ask your workforce to write up stories of what those same customers are doing without your product.  How do your customers try and get things done?  Your rep could ask someone “What task do you do during the day that is most cumbersome, or time consuming?”  You can also ask your people to write stories about fictional characters and what these people might want to do in a given day.  You also can write stories and vett them through the same Cim community with others.  The new market innovation process is really an iterative process that expands and develops on the stories.


You are now collecting wonderfully valuable qualitative stories.  Some of real people and some fictional.  You are getting the feedback from your broad workforce.  You may even make them public to customers and ask them to actually tell you which stories apply to them.

You are stopping short of asking your people to tell you directly their product idea – it starts to become implicit in the stories.  You first want to understand the job people may want to get done.  Then, you begin to frame it into the product that would address the circumstance.


Going there and Getting There

All of these steps, are built on small focused campaigns.  They build and evolve your market approaches.  They are part of a program that uses qualitative information to fuel circumstance-based innovation.  Your employees learn to engage, to share stories, to know what questions to ask and what to look for.  They become engaged in the process.  You get a volume of information that you never would have the time or budget to get.  It is unfiltered and provided by non-experts that don’t live inside the same box as professionals.  This process will then feed into and/or complement your New Product activities.

Cim is a great solution to enable you to tap into your workforce to add User Stories to your mix.  It is easy to create new campaigns.  It is easy for users to contribute with and engage with others.  And, it provides you with what you need to manage the back-end work of reviewing, categorizing, prioritizing, approving, and, rolling back out new campaigns to continue your process.  It gives you a platform to iteratively engage with your internal workforce and external communities.

Its been 50 years since Mr. Levitt’s original article – we now have the tools to work with unstructured information, engage with others and execute on the theory.  In many of our customers, it was IT that pushed to bring SharePoint into the organization.  In my opinion, they are off the hook Mr. Christensen.  Now, it is up to those of us that want to leverage solutions like Cim on top of this new platform to drive innovation.


Cim for New Products: Primer

New product innovation is a core business scenario for CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint (Cim).   Cim allows you to tap into your workforce (internal or external) for the ideas to fuel your innovation objectives.  This is a great value to augment existing processes.  But, that is just the start of a successful new product innovation process.  In this article we’ll walk you through a couple scenarios that build on one another towards a more comprehensive view of an end-to-end process for new product innovation.

A little setup… New products and services are important and typically represent a major investment.  Thus, many organizations have a rather involved review and approval process.  There are typically a host of supporting activities in the decision process. In addition, the workstream for new product innovations must continue further through development and go to market activities to result in a positive business outcome.  The process differs by industry and by company or even by product line.  They tend towards more complex scenarios that have greater integration challenges. Cim addresses this scenario with its flexible design and the ability to engage people in different ways throughout the full process.

Basic Idea Managementimage for New Products 

We’ll start with the simplest scenario.  Typically, organizations have some sort of approval process for new product investments.  With the addition of idea management you are adding the ability to tap into your workforce (internal or external) and engage them in your process.  The basic workstream is as shown here.

- Ideation – Ideas are captured from a broad audience in a standing product idea community.  The community rates, comments, and enhances the ideas with supporting information.  Ideas can be stack ranked by the activity of the community.

- Review and Management – Then, there is the back-side management site (the flip side).  Here your smaller new product management team does their work.  They screen the ideas, select candidates, review and enhance them, put them through their formal proposal and approval process and oversee the portfolio of approved innovations.  This work is complemented with supporting reporting and management features.


Increasing the Flow and Focus image

One of the most common extensions to the basic approach is to increase the flow of ideas and their relevance to an objective.  This is typically done by planning and executing proactive campaigns, challenges, and contests directed towards your workforce.  They typically are for specific time periods and specific new product objectives.

As shown here, the flow from multiple communities comes into the same management site.  An important aspect of the Cim solution is the ease with which your management site (or sites) can be modified to meet differences in your management process and accommodate changes, such as when the flow is greater and different.


Implementing YOUR End-to-End Solution

As mentioned above, your end-to-end process is probably unique and changes from time to time or even by situation.  Cim adapts to this reality.  It delivers on the elements above and provides the foundation to enhance and extend YOUR process to incorporate the other supporting and downstream activities that transform ideas into innovations.  A little definition first:

-  Supporting Activities – These are the activities that are required to support the decision process.  Leveraging our native process integration, add-on CorasWorks-based apps and/or supporting SharePoint supporting sites can be hooked into the process.  Examples are sites/apps for Market Evaluation and Planning, Market Testing Campaigns, Subject Matter Review Teams (Engineering, etc.), Finance Review, supporting collaboration sites, and sites or external services providing necessary data and information to make informed decisions.  The objective is better decisions and pre-planning.

-  Downstream Activities – Once a decision is made to proceed – what happens?  Similarly, you can have integrated downstream activities.  You may have Implementation Teams to implement straightforward product changes.  Or, you may spin up a new product development site.  Or, push the innovation to one or more Program Management Offices.  Or, add the new development project to one or more management portfolio dashboards. These may further leverage CorasWorks, such as using our Project Portfolio Management solution.  Or, you may have your own native SharePoint sites or third party sites/applications that are integrated (and run on SharePoint or externally).

Below is a schematic that shows the workstream from idea through the downstream activities leading to your business outcome.



Benefit of Role-Based UI’s in a Distributed SharePoint Environment

Trying to meet the needs of a complex business scenario in a single UI has challenges such as fragility, constraints of one size fits all design, and less friendly and relevant user design.  Cim on SharePoint provides different role-based UI’s allowing the user to work in one place and do their work – such as working on Market Evaluation.  The modules are integrated across the distributed environment so the right information is available to users where they work.  Thus, users don’t have to navigate the environment or even know about the other elements  And, their UI can be optimized for the work they need to do.  With this approach, a SharePoint environment becomes a natural foundation for the more complex scenarios of new product innovation.



RFP Response Ideas and Input on Cim for Proposal Management

New Product Development and Process Improvement are obvious applications for CorasWorks Idea Management (Cim).  Our creative customers are starting to enlighten us with not so obvious ones.  Here is a good one – tapping into your workforce to generate ideas, input and information for a response to an RFP and pushing it into your Proposal Management response app.  We like it so much it is now part of our standard demo.  In this article I’ll discuss this business scenario.


The customer who came up with it is a very large government systems integrator.  They have built a project-oriented proposal management solution using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  It is very sophisticated with complex layers of security to support government security requirements and multiple vendors.

Their objectives are straight-forward – win more proposals and make money delivering.  How?  By tapping into their broad workforce to get good technical, delivery, operational ideas, input, and information up front and throughout the proposal process to improve their proposal, increase their chance of winning and their success in delivery and making money doing it.  Their approach is to use Cim to improve their process.

Basic Workstream Description


The flow works like this.  The RFP comes in from the prospect.  They then kick off a proposal site for the Response team in their existing system.  They begin their normal process.  Now, the change in process comes …

- The response team prepares a challenge site using Cim to get input from either a broad audience or a more select but large audience depending on the proposal.

- They set a limited timeframe for the initial response ideas, say 2 weeks to a month, to get input.  People contribute, vet, augment, rate, comment, etc.  Again, this may be a broad open challenge community or a private but larger community for invited participants.

- They then have a Screening/Review step where they screen the input.  The ones they like or need they push into the Response team site to use in the process of preparing the proposal.

- As new issues or topics come up in their proposal process they go back out to the community?  For instance, as they get through the process they may need to go back to test their assumptions on Resource Availability and Cost.  Thus, it becomes a supporting iterative application to augment the overall process.

The Diagram

Here is a diagram that lays out the basic workstream. It differs somewhat from a straight-through idea workstream like Process Improvement because the Proposal team kicks it off from the start.  In effect, the community element is a subset of their their overall proposal process.  It is an option, a tool they can use to broaden their chance of success.






The Demo Example

In our Cim demonstrations, we now have an example of this scenario.  Our scenario is commercially oriented – the ACME Widget Company has put out an RFP for vendors to propose their services/products that will help ACME reduce energy consumption at its manufacturing facility.

Below is a screenshot of the RFP Response Challenge community.  We are showing one idea that has been proposed.  Note that the contributor has attached key documents required by the process as specified by the response team.ACME

The full end-to-end solution

With the systems integrator customer mentioned above they have a CorasWorks based Proposal Management system.  That makes it a nice, end-to-end, pre-integrated solution.  However, you can also use simple native SP collaborative sites for Proposals or any that you have customized with or without CorasWorks.  CorasWorks natively integrates and allows for the downstream integration (pushing screened ideas into the proposal sites) with any SharePoint based site.  In addition, you can integrate this process as a bolt on to other third-party Proposal Management solutions such as Privia from Spring CM.  This can be done either through a non-invasive approach where you can easily see or access the selected information from the third-party app or actually push or pull the information into the database of the third-party app.


The goal of the proposal process is to win more proposals and to be able to profitably deliver on them.  Easily being able to tap into a broader group of people in your organization (or partners and vendors also) and integrate their ideas, input and information into the process improves your chance of success on both objectives.



CorasWorks Idea Management v1.1 for SP2010 Unveils at Tech Ed

Tech Ed is cooking down in New Orleans.  We turned up the heat even further by unveiling Cim v1.1 for SP2010.  If you are there, get over to booth 345 and check it out.  For the rest of us, I’ll walk you through a few screenshots to highlight some changes in Cim v1.1.

First, it sports a new upgraded, customizable UI as shown below.  Over the last month we’ve tweaked the Idea Community Portal UI to play very nicely with SP2010.



We have also upgraded the Idea Community modules in a number of ways.  At the core, we improved the architecture to make it easier to support integration with downstream processes (review, approval, management and implementation phases). In the UI we support a number of features highlighted below: Status bar showing updates from downstream processes, new Star Power algorithm used in our Top 10 Rankings, and group document uploads allowing any community members to add documents to an idea in addition to comments.



Our Top 10 Listings shown below now support a Portfolio approach.  Just add a new Community, Campaign, Challenge or Contest to the system and it is ready to go in the Top 10 Listings – giving you Most Recent and Highest rated.  You can also customize the listings such as adding fields or style, and, you can create your own unique ones.



The Administrative UI’s of the various modules of Cim have been updated to take advantage of the new SP2010 UI such as the Ribbon Bar shown below.  Thus, they are consistent with the user experience of all SharePoint 2010 users – and easy to use.



The new user dialogs in the Review and Management sites use pop-up modal forms as shown below to make it easier for users to modify.  In addition, it is point and click to modify the forms to not show fields, such as system fields, that aren’t relevant to a particular task.




In addition, in our Idea Portfolio Management site we now provide for customizable actions to drive downstream processes.  For instance, imagine a New Product is approved for development.  As shown below, this approved innovation is being “pushed” into a Program Management Office to kick off the development project.  Other actions can be added for different workstreams such as pushing approved process changes into team sites for different teams to implement the process changes.



These are some of the changes for the new Cim v1.1 on SP2010.  However, they are just screenshots.  It is far better to get a demo and experience an actual business scenario that means something to your business – where ideas are captured and turned into results using Cim.

Until then,


Idea Management – Differing Business Scenarios

In my previous post, I went into detail about moving to a proactive, event-driven approach for driving “ideation” and the different types of idea communities including Standing Communities, Challenges, Campaigns, and Contests.  In this article, I will drill down into 4 business scenarios and look at the more end-to-end process of planning your activities.

We’ll be covering the four business scenarios as shown in the diagram below.


This 4 step approach gives you a simple tool with which to plan your activity.  It is a quick way to frame your approach.  The four sections bucket a set of questions to be answered.  It works as follows:

  • Scenario – What are you trying to achieve?  For this bucket you want to specify the objective, the context, and the desired result.  This feeds directly into your launch and communication.
  • Type – This is where you design the “community” approach and the actual community site.  Which of the four types of “communities” fits best?  What is the time frame?  What is your tagsonomy and information capture? What submission criteria do you have? How will you launch it?  What reward or fame will you give to it?
  • Process – okay, you have ideas and collaboration.  What will you do with the responses?  Will you have informal or formal reviews?  Who is part of the team?  By what criteria will you make a decision to proceed?  How will you engage the contributors and the community and provide feedback? 
  • Downstream – You have an output – an idea that is ready to be made real.  What are the downstream processes and activities to make it real? Is there a development project?  Do you task it out for immediate implementation?  Is there a change management program?  How and when will your track and review the progress?

Lets take a brief look at how we might break this down for each of the 4 scenarios above.

New Products Needed – Scenario: we specify that we want a few new products in a given market space for launch next year. We have a $5m development and go to market budget. Type: we’ll do this with a Campaign to last 60 days.  We’ll provide 100,000 Amex points to be split amongst the top 5 selected ideas.  We require the idea and a written proposal based upon a pre-set template.  Review: We have a team of 20 reviewers and there is a board of 5 people to decide.  Development: Each will go through your standard product development process that is project driven.

Solutions for an RFP – Scenario: We received an RFP from ACME Widget Co. for proposals to reduce energy consumption for a manufacturing facility.  We want our technical solutions and have 45 days to respond.  Type: We will have Challenge to last for 20 days.  We have a structured tagsonomy and want ideas within 3 categories of technology for the customer.  We have time off days for each selected idea.  Review: We have a 5 person review team supported by the proposal team.  The contributor will be engaged for the proposal write up.  Downstream: Our proposal team will make the proposal via our standard proposal project system.

Continuous Process Improvement – Scenario: We want a continuing flow of process improvement ideas for a manufacturing process for a particular division driving towards efficiencies.  Type: We will have a Standing Community with Quarterly Rewards for contributions, selections, and implementations.  Review: There is a standing team of 5 people that meet monthly to review the submissions and manage the process.  Downstream: We use a task based implementation process with team leads for each implementation.  

Requirements for Application – Scenario: We want to create a new portal for use by our globally distributed Product Management team.  We will be using SharePoint and have a $250,000 budget.  We want to begin development in 60 days and want requirements that are vetted by the users with input for feasibility from our technical communities.  Type: We have a Challenge to gather requirements and vet them in a visible way.  The reward is that the requirements and the solutions that people want get implemented.  They are rated and stacked.  Review: The rating and feasibility are important.  After, the challenge a team agrees on the Requirements and the Solution and publishes the results.  Downstream: We go into our standard development process with continued visibility to the Community on the progress.

This framework gives you a good place to get started.  As you apply it, and think it through, you will find that one good effort often leads to follow on efforts.  For instance, imagine that your continuous process improvement is generating ideas.  One such idea is a zinger and could be generally applied across a number of divisions but would require additional political support (buy in), technical solutions and budget.  The benefits look big.  You may then spin up another Challenge to vet just this one idea.

The permutations are endless.  Thus, it is important to use a basic framework such as this to provide some discipline.  Each campaign/challenge has a bit of overhead and you don’t want to have too many so that the effect is diminished.    

With that said, often, these activities occur at different levels of the organization, some with everyone, and some with smaller groups.  By using CIM on SharePoint, you get the means to have a standardized yet tailored experience. In addition, users can participate in different venues.  You may have one central Idea Community Portal for standing communities and broad campaigns.  However, some of these communities may exist in Department Portals, Extranets, or specific Communities of Interest.  Thus, you are usually segmenting your community market and that gives you more freedom to engage more often and in a more targeted manner.

In addition, the Review and Management module of CIM is very flexible.  So, you can set up different instances of review and portfolio sites to meet differing types of activities.  For instance, you might have one general Idea Portfolio Management site for new products with a lot of structure.  You might have another to be used to manage a continuing flow of Challenges such as the Requirements and RFP responses with a “stack and rack” approach to sorting through the ideas.  Accordingly, you have the ability to tailor the front end ideation process and the back end review and approval process to meet your objectives.

Of course, this leads us to the integration with the downstream processes – that is for another article…


Idea Management: Driving results with “Events” and Web 2.0-Style Features

In my overview to CorasWorks Idea Management solution for SharePoint, I touched on our support for custom-tailored, event-driven idea communities, such as Campaigns and Challenges.  In this article, I’ll drill down into what these are and how this approach to idea management complemented by the new Web 2.0-style feature sets drive improved effectiveness.

Most people I talk to about Idea Management initially bring a mindset that is based upon the “Suggestion Box”.  In this classic approach, you have a passive email inbox, form or community for people to enter ideas.  It is passive.  If people have an idea and remember how to share it properly – they contribute.  Its a start…

However, the studies over the last 10 years have shown that proactive, event-driven approaches to idea generation and capture are much more effective.  The event-driven approach involves having specific-purpose, time-constrained “events” for outreach to your community.  Here are three examples:

  • You want ideas for new features of an existing product.  You will have a campaign for 60 days to get ideas.  Then, you begin your formal review process by a smaller team.
  • You are working on a global application for product management.  Instead of meetings, you launch a challenge for 30 days to have all interested parties enter their requirements, and collaborate, vet, horse trade.  Then, you take what you have and work up the requirements.
  • You have a particular manufacturing process that is broken and needs improvement.  You run a two week challenge to get ideas and collaborate on them. 

The key change up here is that rather than being passive and general, you are taking specific business problems and objectives to your community – be it employees, vendors, partners, customers, constituents, or the general public.  You are leveraging your workforce to meet specific objectives, within a specific timeframe.

Further, now with the new feature set of Web 2.0-style communities, you have the opportunity to really drive participation and collaboration with rewards, visibility, peer feedback and collaboration, process updates, fame, and focus.  These features appeal to the fact that we are all human (in addition to being worker bees) – a little competition, fame, reward, and knowing that something is important right now – helps motivate us to participate and do so in a quality way. 

To provide some structure and best practices to use the new methodology, it is common in idea management circles to categorize “idea communities” into 4 types as follows:

  • Standing Communities: This type is most like the Suggestion Box.  You may have Standing Communities for General Ideas, New Products, or Process Improvement.  These still serve the purpose of allowing people to more broadly contribute when they think of it.  However, you now strengthen the motivation with the human features mentioned above.
  • Campaigns:  These are generally event-driven sub-sets of standing communities.  Such as “Spring is the Time for New Ideas for our Omega 2010 product line”.  The campaign runs for 30 days or so, with an objective about the scope and quality of ideas.  And, you put 50,000 Amex points or $500 Amazon dollars up for the best ideas during the campaign.
  • Challenges: These are even more specific.  Here you have very specific calls to action: requirements for this application, solutions for a specific RFP, questions like “How should we change our business in 2011” and “who and why are our top competitors” that will be part of next months planning session.  Challenges may have very short duration, even days.  Your idea community is really a tool to quickly capture, collaborate and vet the challenge.
  • Contests: This is also a specific type of event.  It is simply emphasizing the competitive and reward aspects.  It is often used with external audiences to encourage participation.  Or, it may be an approach to heighten the attention internally.  It really is about putting some reward behind the campaign and get many minds to participate in a competitive way.  

With CIM, we have designed it to make it easy for you to create individual communities of all four types.  Each is a stand-alone SharePoint site where the data is captured and the community is administered.  Yet, the participation is done in a common UI, such as our Idea Community Portal.  In addition, each community can be custom tailored to its purpose.  The most common customization is to change the Tagsonomy for each community.  This means modifying the categories and tags to provide structure for each community.  You can also change the look and feel.  You can add additional fields to capture different information or expose different feedback.

The takeaway is that you will be most effective at driving participation and innovation when you move from passive to targeted event-driven outreaches to your community.  The basic Web 2.0 features of CIM allow you to heighten the human factors that make Idea Management “ideation” successful.  And, the flexibility of CIM allows you to really tailor these community outreaches to be most effective for each objective, and, to be able to handle them separately.

In truth, this approach and this flexibility, really shift the burden onto management to proactively figure out how they will leverage their workforce and communities.  We now have the studies, the tools and the methodologies to influence the results.  Idea Management and its impact on an organizations innovation is now much less the result of chance, but, can be greatly influenced through managed planning, process, discipline, and execution.

With that said, make sure to sprinkle in a bit of fun, sizzle and excitement.  At the end of the day, it is all about people…