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So far in this series of posts, I've described three ingredients for turning innovation into a core business process:
This trio lays the foundation: It defines the process ground rules. It ensures that there's transparency throughout the organization. And it opens the door to discovering what the market really needs.
The fourth ingredient ties it all together, and is simply this: Make objective decisions based on what is best for the company.
You can feel the energy in the room earlier this week as we huddled around a projector at a two-day company offsite. Our company is doubling in size every year, we're hiring new people all the time and growing interest in more globally competitive innovation and frugal innovation is feeding us an opportunity to become a very large company. The mood is naturally upbeat as we launch the offsite with a review of company performance.
Throughout those two days I must have heard a dozen stories about different customer prospects and what their pains were in the innovation cycle. Though different prospects were interested in specific features, there was a theme that strung across nearly every story.
No doubt you’ve been in meetings where a customer has said something like, “This would be an unbeatable product if only it _______.” I’ll let you fill in the blank.
Unless it’s a top-tier customer with lots of money at stake, the chance of one of these suggestions turning into a product feature is very, very small. Yet, companies receive ideas from customers all the time. And many of them are quite good.
Why? Because customers know what they need from the products they buy.
But even if individual ideas are not feature worthy, combining and analyzing them may reveal trends or needs you hadn’t considered before. And those revelations could lead to some competitive products and capabilities. Ingredient number 3 in this series on turning innovation into a core business process is simple: Embrace the voice of your customer.
This post was originally titled Finding a New Way with Your Product Roadmap, but that seemed a tad mundane when you're trying to imply that the importance of Innovation and Transparency goes beyond Requirements Management.
A talent for bluffing and obfuscation comes in handy when playing poker. If you're good at it, you can amass a hefty personal fortune.
Now imagine a poker table with marketing, engineering, finance and the Blue Sky team each sitting around trying to outwit one another.
Regrettably, too many companies behave this way when it comes to product innovation and development. Individuals and departments try to win executive favor, budget dollars and personal power at the expense of customer value and company success.
In that kind of environment, product team members will make unilateral decisions... ignore agreed-to decisions... compete against each other... and blame each other. They'll hold their cards close to the vest by maintaining program data in spreadsheets and static documents, declaring them unavailable to others on the product team. Innovation expert Paul Sloane has blogged that this kind of internal politics "can reach the ridiculous stage where the enemy is seen as another department inside rather than the competitors outside."
This situation leads us to the second ingredient in this series of posts on transforming the innovation process: Replace the many truths with a single, shared truth.
The brainrants blog recently posted on "How to... Retire a Product Gracefully" covering the often painful process of putting a product into its grave. What really caught my attention was the criteria of good reasons to kill a product, because most of them are also cautionary tales on innovation shortcomings that could have been avoided.
Recapping the past week and introducing the next.
Tom Grant at Forrester writes an excellent blog on product management, in which he recently graced us by mentioning Accept in his post on "The Unrecognized Success of the Requirements Tool Market." To be sure, awareness for solutions like ours is growing fast. In fact in our latest earnings announcement we highlighted record financial results and aggressive expansion plans.
Tom asks his readers why there's a sudden interest in requirements tools and the business problem they're tied to. You'll have to read Tom's blog to get his own answer to the question in an upcoming post, but we also thought we'd let you know what we think here.
Innovation has been the lifeblood of high-tech companies, so why is interest on the rise just now?
As promised, here is the first of five ingredients for your plan to transform product innovation activities into a core business process.
One of the toughest, yet most important steps you need to take is to get senior management and all product-related departments on the same page. It's tough because you'll need to align the objectives and metrics for product development with the company's overall business goals. And that will ruffle some feathers.
You begin by creating an integrated product innovation framework. The framework specifies the limits of what your product departments should and should not consider as investment candidates. And it helps cross-functional product teams target their work where it is the most beneficial (meaning, "profitable").
The elements of the framework are...
Leave it to The Nielsen Company to uncover the dirty little secret of how innovation really happens.
In a recent study of the consumer packaged goods industry, Nielsen found out that when senior executives influence product decisions, things go terribly wrong. In fact, companies with innovation teams located far from the corporate headquarters generate 80% more new product revenue than those where the bosses can easily get involved.
More remarkably, that number goes to 130% more for companies with well-defined innovation processes.