The Top 6 Features of an Idea Management System

I was recently asked by an associated of mine what I thought was the top features an idea management system must have or must do. This is an interesting question and I thought I'd share with you what I think and why, but I'd like to hear what you guys think also so please by all means jump in and share your thoughts in the comments area at the end of the post.

Campaign Support

This may seem obvious to you seasoned innovation professionals, but for those of you who are just getting into the space “focused ideation” where you can invite an audience to focus their creative energy on a narrow specific topic is in my opinion the #1 feature. Simply allowing people to submit any idea that they might have is not enough. Your business has specific challenges it faces and opportunities it wants to pursue; gathering ideas that specifically support or address these items ensure everyone is focusing on helping to move the business forward and are more likely to be resourced and implemented – bolstering the Innovation program as a whole.

Flexible Idea Submission Form

This another big deal in my opinion. Because campaign topics can cover a broad range from strategic support, cost containment, revenue generation, new product development, etc. it is absolutely critical that the submission form for an idea management system is variable and allows the campaign manager the flexibility to capture the information they need to successfully evaluate the ideas that are submitted. A title and description field are not enough.

Flexible Review Process including Variable Criteria

When it comes to reviewing ideas “one size does not fit all!” As with the idea submission form, an idea management system must also be able to accommodate variable review teams (rounds of reviews), variable criteria (per round), and a variety of criteria types be it thumbs up/thumbs down, scales (1-100), drop down lists, etc. You need and want this type of flexibility.

Idea Archive with Strong Search

The nature of the innovation process is to converge on a small number of concepts that are the most likely to deliver the value you are looking for within the constraints and resources you are working with. This means that the vast majority of the ideas that you collect are not going to be implemented. This does not mean these nuggets do not have value, it may just not be their time.  Having the ability to archive ideas and search through ideas is paramount. Before launching a new challenge or campaign, I always suggest sponsors look through existing ideas to see if there are some that might address their needs. These ideas might also be great topics within themselves or good seed ideas.

Configurable or Easily Modifiable

Innovation is a journey. As you grow your innovation program requirements will change due to changing business conditions and learnings. It is important that your system can grow and adjust to your changing requirements. Being stuck with a “one size fits all system” means you'll likely have to go shopping for a new system after a few years which can be a huge hit to your program.

Tie to Implemented Value

Yeah I know, it's supposed to be the Top 5 but this just has to be mentioned.  The long term survivability of any idea management system is based on its ability to report or make visible the actual value being generated from the tool to the business' bottom line.  Because it typically takes time to implement ideas, its crucial to capture projected values and project status information as the idea/concept moves through the innovation process.  At the end of the day, you need to be able to say, this system has generated X concepts that have been implemented, generating X $dollars to the bottom line.  You need to report, Y concepts are in the hoper with a potential of Y dollars.  You get the idea, management will question the yearly spend to support the system.

In Closing

You might notice I did not mention anything about collaboration features (commenting, voting, etc.). This was deliberate. If an idea management system does have these features, RUN! It's simply a given. So these are my thoughts, what are yours?

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