How to Turn Ideas into Business Results
Innovation management is a requisite step toward the positive growth of any organization. Recently, the focus has been on a specific part of innovation management being dramatically affected by the much buzzed about ‘social revolution’. Yes, the seemingly rigid, straightforward, top-down traditional Project Management process may be in the midst of a major transformation- due in part to major evolutions in the software that helps facilitate this process.
Every day, the social revolution touches almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Standard practice now seems to be that one must either read comments on Amazon or a group forum, post a tweet, join a LinkedIn discussion and tap friends on Facebook before buying a product online.
Social is not going away. Businesses are starting to realize that in order to maintain competitive advantage they need to figure out not only what ‘social’ means, but how to effectively leverage it within the organization. Traditional project management software doesn’t match the way we live or work anymore. Until companies realize that, current project management methods will continue to fall short. Integrating part of what this social revolution stands for into project management (i.e.- Social Project Management) means smaller, multi-skilled teams, flexible workflows, openness through collaboration, virtual mobility, sharing, immediate feedback and responsiveness and so much more.
Personally, I think that seeing ideas materialize is the most critical and rewarding part of innovation. Even after a dozen years of advising Fortune 1000 companies around the practical implementation of innovation management, I am still amazed at the power of ideas. Many of the companies I’ve worked with have been able to track stages of implementation and calculate specific ROI of individual ideas and groups of ideas that value pipelines in the hundreds of millions in cost-savings or revenue-generation.
The complete innovation management lifecycle can be broken down into three phases: ideas, proposals, and projects. However, it is the final stage, the point at which an idea becomes reality that determines the ROI and overall monetary value of your innovation pipeline. Project management tools provide support in the critical process of taking something abstract, like an idea, and turning it into a measurable, trackable entity, like a process improvement that will save your company millions of dollars in costs.
Tackling an arguably complex and multifaceted subject like social project management is never simplistic. However at its core, when dealing with a range of early stage ideas and business proposals from innovation campaigns of all types, there is a clear way to breakdown the process of planning, executing and monetizing projects in order to deliver on what matters most – results.
a. WHAT are you working on?
Select or Create Projects – Most of what to work on has already been determined through prior phases by establishing an ideation campaign to address an issue your organization is currently facing and prioritizing the solutions suggested through the wisdom of the crowd and expert insights. At this point you can take one or many of the top ideas and create a new project.
b. WHO will work on it?
Plan Ahead – Hopefully, but not always, this is a question answered long ago. The sponsor of your campaign should have already identified resources up front, which could come in the form of human or financial capital. In addition, one member of your Innovation Council may already be available to mentor or oversee the project from this point on. In any case, the capacity of your current pipeline should have been a part of the plan and, if limited, should be supplemented with additional resources.
c. HOW do you work on it?
Stage Gate Processes or Ad Hoc Milestones – Once projects and teams are defined, ad hoc milestones can be created so everyone knows where they stand in the process and who is taking on what task. Another option is to utilize a more formal Stage Gate Process to extract more detailed information about your project and set clearer defined gates and stages for the workflow.
a. FOLLOW Your Project
Track Projects – Following each step of your project will allow you to monitor progress and make changes as needed. Stay up to date using both milestone processes and ad hoc updates.
b. Share Documents
Documents must be available to all team members to make the most of your collaborative efforts. Upload, share, and store supporting project files in a central location so no one is left out of the loop.
c. CONNECT People and Ideas
Encourage Collaboration – Collaboration is a crucial ingredient to innovation. Big breakthrough ideas rarely come from one sporadic source, so getting your teams to work together will allow them to fine tune ideas and build on each other’s feedback, increasing the team’s creativity and collective brainpower.
Share and Promote – Create a place like ‘Facebook-style’ fan pages- where people who viewed, submitted or commented on an idea can follow its progress all the way through realization.
a. STRATIFY your Projects
Organize Projects – Don’t fall behind by being disorganized. Create a portfolio of projects or arrange them into groupings for easy stratification and navigation. This will allow you to combine similar projects and streamline management of larger projects.
b. UPDATE on Progress
Financial Projections and Tracking – Track and monitor the implementation process of your business decisions by setting financial projections and tracking changes. This will allow you to quickly make adjustments if needed and easily pull C-Level executive reports.
Data and Visualization – Analyze and evaluate progress by creating customizable reporting dashboards that offer true financial insights.
Innovation PR – Solid ongoing communication on the success of your initiative is key to locking in future participation and continuing to strengthen your network of innovation champions. Leverage all of the data you’ve been collecting to let your community appreciate the ongoing efforts, even after the submission and collaboration doors have closed.
THE SOCIAL SOLUTION
Can the process of turning ideas into reality be supported and automated by the solid backing of a scalable software infrastructure that is inherently social? At a macro level, just like your VP of sales has a CRM system to manage leads, and to turn those leads into opportunities, and turn those opportunities into contracts while continually reporting on the various stages of that process, your company should have an infrastructure in place to manage ideas- all the way through execution. Using a lightweight social project management tool will shift the focus from employee collaboration and leveraging the wisdom of the crowd to more on how to make ideas happen.
A social project management tool designed specifically for innovation is more about agility and collaboration than Gantt charts. It fosters a social environment by letting team members grab tasks from a central location where they can discuss the project collectively to make sure it moves forward within the organization. The features and functionality of the software should be developed to handle those 60 to 70 percent of projects that do not fit into traditional project management tools.
The future of innovation is social. Helping companies bring good ideas to fruition, and waste less time in the process, is what the next generation of social project management will look like.
James is an innovation management expert with over 12 years of experience and the Vice President of Professional Services at Brightidea. He oversees the success of all client innovation campaigns, in particular focusing on best practices and large-scale rollouts.
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