We’ve talked recently about InnovationOps in this space: a flexible yet structured approach to innovation that guides an organization through its unique innovation journey. InnovationOps brings together the people and processes related to discovery, product management, project management and portfolio management, governance and strategy execution, treating each as unified parts of a broader innovation picture.
One of the most important features of InnovationOps is that it’s process agnostic. The methodology—whether Agile, Waterfall, Phase-Gate or something else—doesn’t matter as long as it's matched to the specific organizational needs that include the type of innovation being developed, size of and riskiness of the investment and where on the dimension of incremental to radical innovation items fit. While different methodologies can be employed, the software tools and policies that are most critical. In fact, InnovationOps works even if teams use differing methodologies within the same organization.
Let’s take a closer look at the three methodologies mentioned above and how they’re supported by InnovationOps.
Benefits of Agile
You could say Agile—and Agile-based methodologies like Lean, Scrum, SAFE and XP—represents the biggest game-changer for new product development. With its emphasis on flexibility and rapid iteration, software developers have been part of a veritable revolution.
What I like most about Agile is its emphasis on allowing people to use their individual strengths and dedication to customer collaboration. I’m a big proponent of developing tight relationships with customers to identify and characterize their most pressing problems, and Agile empowers teams to do that while delivering faster value to customers.
I recently read an insightful BCG article highlighting how KONE—a global elevator and escalator manufacturer—transitioned its software and hardware R&D operations to an Agile approach. And it drove home the importance of having strong InnovationOps thinking in place in order to change methodologies successfully.
Their speed of adopting agile is a testament to the innovation policies and philosophies they already had in place. It allowed them to further build out and enhance their synchronized system that brought people across the organization together to significantly improve a key area of innovation (namely development) in a product company. This is the hallmark of InnovationOps thinking – they were working to further operationalize innovation across their company.
Benefits of Waterfall
The Waterfall methodology, where each step is generally dependent on the previous step and restricts steps of a project from advancing until the current one is completed, has given way to more flexible methodologies. However, it does have components that still make sense today.
It’s important to note that Waterfall isn’t optimal for projects where sudden changes are likely or where there are a lot of unknowns (like new software product development) that need to be addressed as time progresses. However, it is ideal for well-defined projects with a single timeline that requires a fixed budget and deadline. Progression cannot happen if there are hold-ups or issues with previous steps, which prevents issues from being propagated forward. When parameters are well defined, Waterfall helps organizations more efficiently manage the project and track progress.
Benefits of phase-gate
The modern zero-based phase-gate methodology adds specific gates/checkpoint to Waterfall and includes components that you might find in both Agile and Waterfall. It incorporates a series of stages that must be completed, but it also allows flexibility to adjust governance within each phase so Agile and Waterfall methodologies can employed.
This methodology is helpful for organizations trying to manage and control risk when innovating at scale. That’s because phase-gate helps to accelerate the innovation process while providing the structure that can detect and mitigate risk that may fall through the cracks on expansive, long-timeline and high-investment projects.
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Looking at methodologies through an InnovationOps lens
Innovation at scale in many companies is often chaotic and disconnected. Organizations that embrace an InnovationOps thinking are best suited to harmonize the many components of innovation and reduce the chaos and its risks.
InnovationOps is a combination of cultural philosophies, practices, people and software that increases an organization's ability to deliver innovation at high velocity while lowering risk. It brings three distinct areas together:
- The What: Innovation management disciplines and jobs. This includes ideation and discovery, portfolio management, product management, innovation management and project management.
- The How: Processes, practices and critical techniques. This is inclusive of any and all methodologies used and is often a blend of practices—whatever is honed for each organization's unique needs.
- The Who: People who make innovation happen. These are the executives, leaders and team members that drive The What and The How. They run the disciplines and drive the innovation processes forward.
InnovationOps doesn’t dictate which methodologies an organization uses—that decision should be made by those who understand the organization best. Instead, InnovationOps helps to create an environment and culture where chosen methodologies can be brought together in a synchronized system to easily drive innovation forward. And with the demand for disruptive products to be delivered faster than ever, InnovationOps represents the most frictionless path from ideation to product retirement.
Sopheon is at the forefront of the InnovationOps movement, and our suite of innovation-forward solutions can position even the largest company to innovate at scale.
Learn more about how we can help your organization with our signature offerings: Accolade, Acclaim Ideas, Acclaim Products and Acclaim Projects.