Ops are all the rage these days. Whether DesignOps, ITOps, DevOps or SecOps—and even DevSecOps—companies are looking for structures that bring disparate groups together to accomplish goals efficiently through a system of checks and balances. Here’s another one that will come to the forefront in 2023: InnovationOps.
I’ve had the privilege of working with several innovative companies across many industries. The best ones—the ones that consistently disrupted the market—had sturdy yet flexible processes that guided teams across the innovation process. The culmination of those processes is InnovationOps.
With more than four decades in the product innovation sector, I believe InnovationOps consists of four specific areas: idea management, product management, project management and innovation management. Let’s take a closer look.
A common misconception is that ideas and innovation are interchangeable terms. I cringe every time I hear it. Many companies put tons of emphasis on dreaming up the next best thing but don’t have the plan to shepherd it past the whiteboard.
Idea management is the first step of an InnovationOps process. Implementing these idea management best practices will ensure that the output of the front end has the highest probability of success, value and proper alignment with strategy and goals.
- Identify and record ideas. The best companies have an easy-to-find record of how every product evolved so future teams can see where things went right and wrong. You need that context and guidance in the ideation phase. Also, keep a repository of “not-ready-for-primetime” ideas that may be too innovative for today’s market.
- Align ideas to business strategy. The best ideas aren’t always the best fit for your company. Steve Jobs may have made the best salsa, but that wasn’t how Apple made money. Make the company’s mission your North Star during the ideation phase so only the best and most appropriate ideas advance.
- Create an idea advancement process. If an idea has merit, there should be clear action items to commence the development process. This process should be in place before a single brainstorming session begins.
There are many levers to pull to generate product success, but having a solid product management process will help product managers identify the right levers and when to pull them. It can be challenging to balance day-to-day tasks, however, and so organizations must keep stakeholders informed, monitor product performance, plan future products and make data-informed decisions and trade-offs. The following strategies are non-negotiable for such a process.
- Expand your visibility. Product management isn’t about a single offering—it’s understanding the entire portfolio and how products enhance it. It’s also critical to have visibility into the tasks different teams work on for your product.
- Have a plan for change. No product has ever gone from Point A to Point B precisely as planned. Your product management process must be flexible enough to adapt to sudden internal and market shifts.
- Be prepared to answer questions. Stakeholders will want to know the product development status, and those questions become more pointed if there are problems. You must be able to answer anecdotally and have the data to back it up.
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The numerous projects necessary to move a product from ideation to launch and beyond create a tapestry of complexity. For project management to work, project managers must be able to do the following.
- Identify the most essential project-related answers. If a project runs over time or budget, project managers must have a system to determine why things didn’t go as planned. And when friction is at a minimum, it’s just as important to determine and replicate success factors.
- Reduce risk. Playing offense is much easier than playing defense. Project management processes should empower project managers to see an emerging challenge with real-time, data-driven insight and react before it transitions into a real problem.
- Implement systems that position projects for success. Project management is a human and technology endeavor. Explore systems that help support the project management office (PMO), CapEx projects and accurate resource allocation.
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Before an idea is considered, organizations should have a comprehensive innovation management process for innovation and R&D leaders to consistently identify, evaluate and execute against the right strategic priorities. Such a process should create complete visibility, encourage smarter decision-making and enhance time-to-value. Here are the top considerations for any project management process.
- Determine the “best bets.” If an organization knows what success looks like to them—and good luck if they don’t—an innovation management process will help determine product decision making by identifying gaps and redundancies in the product portfolio.
- Improve success rates. Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time, but he probably learned something from each failed at-bat. An innovation management process should have the historical context necessary for organizations to rescue time-to-market and optimize innovation performance.
- Lean into innovation governance. Contrary to what you may hear at an art gallery, innovative creativity must have timelines and guardrails. An innovation management process will provide the appropriate checks and balances to ensure the best products move forward quickly without sacrificing creativity.
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Innovation is no accident. The perfect combination of creativity and structure allows companies to respond to customer needs in real time. By creating an InnovationOps process—custom-built to your organization’s unique needs—2023 could be the year you begin realizing all of the potential and market share your company deserves.
Learn how Sopheon's innovation management software offerings can help your organization move its InnovationOps capabilities forward. Take a look at Accolade, Acclaim Ideas, Acclaim Products and Acclaim Projects.This article originally appeared in Forbes.