Businesses are increasingly turning to idea management software to capture, manage, measure, and reward employee recommendations for positive change. The innovation software is being used with business management systems like Six Sigma and Lean or as a stand-alone approach to achieving operational excellence.
Modern workers want more than just a paycheck and benefits from their employers today. When employees are surveyed, the reasons that they change jobs are more often related to how they perceive themselves as being valued by their employer and how well their current work is preparing them for their future career goals.
Solutions that invite every individual to contribute toward positive change help address the need to contribute to the mission and attain recognition for excellent work. Employees who participate in innovation projects develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills to make them more effective in their current role and prepare them for the next.
What is Idea Management Software?
Idea management software is a platform for collecting, assessing, and acting on employee ideas for improvement. The solution promotes innovation by encouraging everyone to become part of the organization's quest for its strategic goals. Modern idea management solutions are web-based and available to employees from any location at any time.
It is important to note that idea management software built to support continuous improvement is not the same as simple idea ranking tools. Idea ranking is about finding the next big thing, not implementing incremental fixes proposed by the people doing the work. Organizations using "ideation software" implement only about 2% of the ideas they collect.
It is helpful to think of idea management software as having four core functions.
Capture Opportunities for Improvement
Great ideas for cutting costs, improving safety, making processes more efficient, and satisfying customers can come from every employee in the organization. However, without an idea management solution designed to solicit them, good suggestions are often never expressed.
Inviting every employee to become part of your organization's improvement efforts helps them feel more connected to its success. In addition, engaged employees have a direct impact on improving bottom-line business performance and customer satisfaction.
Often good ideas can be turned into fantastic ones with input from others who have a different point of view or background. By making each opportunity for improvement broadly available, the process becomes cross-functional and collaborative.
Does this sound familiar? Someone makes a wonderful suggestion. Everyone says, "That's a great idea!" And then nothing happens. How many opportunities for improvement have been lost by your business in this way? Idea management software is designed to prevent precisely this. It becomes a systematic way of assessing ideas and managing the process of carrying them out.
Idea management software provides a structure for managing improvement projects. Once an idea is submitted, the relieving supervisors and managers are automatically notified. They can then assess and categorize the idea. Often the Lean technique of Catchaball is used to develop ideas and determine if, when, and how they will be implemented.
Once an idea is selected for implementation, the project management elements of the solution kick into gear. Alerts and notifications are provided to ensure that work moves along according to the set timeline. The technology supports improvement tools such as PDSA, A3 problem-solving, daily huddles, and more.
Measure the Impact of Improvement
Once an idea is implemented, it is essential to know if the results produced a positive ROI or enough intangible benefits to justify the effort. Idea management software supports this process and makes it easy to determine if the improvement should be leveraged in other ways.
In many cases, the return is financial, but the return on an idea may also relate to less tangible goals such as improved customer satisfaction, employee retention, shorter cycle times, and higher quality products and services.
The best way to measure the impact of improvement is to visualize it. The best solutions have dashboards that make it easy for leaders to understand the activity, engagement, and impact of employee ideas for positive change.
Share Improvement Knowledge
Idea management software becomes the repository for all of the collective wisdom your team develops around improvement. Everyone has one place to review past efforts, gain insight from other projects, and report their lessons learned. This approach supports a culture of innovation and engagement.
Employee recognition is a built-in part of idea management software, making it easy for managers and executives to acknowledge and reward employees who contribute to business performance improvement.
Critical Idea Management Features
When evaluating an idea management platform, it is good to ask the following series of questions that will lead to an excellent user experience for your employees.
Is the solution available any time, on any device? Inspiration can strike at any time, so make sure the system is web-based and compatible with the mobile devices employees love.
Does the system support strategic alignment? It is wise to collect every idea for innovation, but the most successful organizations prioritize improvements aligned with the strategic goals and objectives. When employees understand how their work is tied to the overall mission, they can focus on improvements that make a big difference.
Can leaders manage visually? Ideally, you'll get many ideas for improvements and have many projects going on at one time. That's why the system must have configurable dashboards so that leaders can quickly tell who is engaged, what is happening, and when they need to take action to remove obstacles.
Is it easy to search the idea database? The best solutions make it easy for people to explore the idea database to see what has already been submitted. Robust search capabilities make it easy to find similar ideas, learn from past mistakes, and avoid duplicate efforts. Searching for ideas is also a great way to spread innovation from one functional area to another.
Implementing idea management software signals to the organization that leaders are serious about opening the lines of communication around how to make the business better. Most leaders who invest are delighted by the range and creativity of employee ideas. Many are surprised by the effort and energy their team will expend when empowered to identify, manage and resolve opportunities for improvement. It's a concept whose time has come and an advantage to those who embrace it before the competition.