Map your processes and collaborate - the best ways to support innovation

Many organisations developing products and services use tools to help them in the innovation process, but specialist innovation management tools are not widely deployed, and few organisations consider how the careful application of standard business tools can make a big difference to the effectiveness of new product and service development. Research carried out by Innovation Observatory shows that the tools that are most widely used by innovative organisations can be grouped into three broad categories (see the diagram). The solutions provided by vendors sometimes combine more than one function, for instance web meetings and application sharing. We have also mapped the use of tools on to the innovation process. Generic collaboration and project management tools, and product lifecycle management systems, have the widest application across the innovation process, including the “fuzzy front end“ of innovation. This is where ideas are generated and filtered, and it tends to be a common concept across organisations of different types and in different sectors. The innovation problems most often experienced by companies and organisations relate to speed of decision making, lack of system integration, complexity of software and difficulties of working in a cross-disciplinary way. Our research leads us to conclude that the single best technical support for innovation is the effective use of collaboration tools — in particular, application sharing and knowledge management. However, the most innovative companies do not attribute their success to the use of tools: rather the tools they use support and enhance a robust product and service development process. So for many companies struggling with innovation management, the best thing they can do is to undertake a thorough business process mapping exercise to identify how processes can be improved.

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