Ideas emerge in the business every day of the week. But very often they are not passed on, not followed up and never really see the light of day. However, an innovative idea, an irritant to be fixed or a change initiative can represent a great opportunity to create value for the business, and can arise in many areas, such as quality, security, quality of life in the workplace, environment, reduced costs, increased revenue, and the development of new products and services.
The story repeats endlessly. Great ideas scribbled in notebooks or emailed to several recipients that come to nothing, for lack of being converted into real change initiatives and followed up as such within the organisation. Converting an idea into a change initiative and from there into added value for the business requires a great deal of work, comparable to that needed to convert a lead into a customer. Do ideas not also deserve to be monitored in a sort of “CRM” for converting ideas into actions? If the comparison might seem surprising at first sight, it is actually quite sensible.
A contact or lead represents a potential future customer for the business, an income stream and a long-term relationship. The change of status from prospect to customer involves a whole organisational structure, with commercial follow-up, an approval process, shared reports, etc. The most effective businesses in terms of sales organisation would not dream of running their set-up without a special CRM (customer relationship management) system in place.
The same principle applies for turning ideas into tangible added value for the business, because ideas are also a significant income stream, or alternatively at least a money saver. To illustrate the point, mention can be made of Air France, which has saved €2m every year thanks to the application of an idea from an employee.
Converting ideas from the suggestions box to tangible implementation also needs an organisational structure. As with the sales cycle, there is an ideas lifecycle, with a comprehensive, shared ideas database, the possibility for other employees to add information around the idea, an assessment of the earning potential using analysis tools, real-time monitoring of the action plan to implement the idea, readily available reports, etc.
The parallel with CRM makes sense, and actually proves highly effective. In the same way that firms organise themselves around a CRM system to make their sales teams the drivers behind turnover growth, a business needs to organise an initiative portfolio management platform to turn its employees into “game changers” who will help the business improve performance and outpace the competition.
Admittedly, this issue of monitoring idea generation is not new, and organisations often make use of existing applications to do so. After all, do business departments not already track their project progress on Excel or Smartsheet? Microsoft Project is frequently used in IT Departments, and with Teams or Meet it is now very easy to work collectively, even when physically separated.
However, this line of reasoning and this choice of applications fall very short measured against the yardstick of the real potential for innovation and transformation in your business. How many initiatives around innovation, operational excellence, transformation and strategic projects do you think are managed using spreadsheets? Probably hundreds if not thousands! They are everywhere, and no one person at a given point in time can possibly have an overview of all of them, or easily find out the progress of a particular one. To say nothing of the discouraging effect on teams running around like headless chickens hardly knowing where to start in the mornings!
A situation that would be inconceivable for any sales director or manager – how could one possibly not know exactly where one stood with a sales opportunity? How could anyone work without a summary of the business pipeline and sales completion forecasts based on the usual conversion rate? The same applies to monitoring ideas, which also have a conversion rate (the proportion successfully implemented). It is vital to be able to analyse all these opportunities, select the most promising, and improve their conversion rate.
Making do with a spreadsheet amounts to neglecting or dismissing the real potential for value creation offered by a participative innovation process. Doing so immediately hampers your ability to see well-organised monitoring of the ideas lifecycle, and stymies any chance of producing dashboards able to support employees in shaking things up.
The main objectives of an initiative portfolio management platform are straightforward, and similar to those for CRM:
As a final point, the only real difference from a CRM system lies in the fact that managing initiatives is still cross-departmental, and involves almost all employees. A collaborative platform centralising the information is therefore even more important, to ensure that all stakeholders in business transformation have a decent level of information available, so they can successfully work better together. Gain a major competitive advantage and request an IDhall demonstration now!