I'm working on a plan to launch an Idea Exchange and I'd really like to get a dedicated resource for it but to do that, I'll need to justify the cost and work effort. Has anyone taken time to build a business case for an idea exchange? I'm wondering if @JoeC or @MikeW have some ideas about how to formulate the value and value statement...
I was hoping to turn up a case study with ROI, but no luck. Lacking that, following is a list of benefits that I hear companies cite the most often when launching ideation.
First some tactical benefits:
Next, some strategic benefits:
One additional benefit that Verizon cites is the way an Idea Exchange can help “cut out the middleman” between product managers and customers. Product managers can not only see what customers are saying, but actually take part in the conversation, asking clarifying questions, offering feedback, and sharing status on improvements. And this is available in real-time, not just when the product group has time to launch a survey or a focus group.
By the way, none of this is to minimize the value of product managers own knowledge and insights, or the value of traditional tools like surveys or focus groups. But most companies today believe that ad hoc, customer-driven ideation can teach even the best product managers new things, and complement or in some cases replace traditional research tools.
Here’s always my key piece of advice when it comes to ROI, on ideation or community in general: find out how your company measures, and measure your own efforts likewise. In other words, put your case in the language that your company understands. For example, it makes sense to do some homework on how ideas make their way into your products today. Some companies have internal process for gathering, implementing, and quantifying ideas that employees submit for improving products or processes. If I were creating an idea exchange, I’d certainly want to piggyback on that, if it exists. Likewise, if your customer survey group has data that shows customers want a voice in product development, you should know that too – and add it to your business case.
Finally, in some ways, by talking about value, we started at the wrong end of this question. For me, the right starting point is, what will be the focus of my idea exchange? Will I open it up to ideas about any of our brands, products or services? Or will I start with one? An important consideration: which brand/product/service group in my company understand the importance of customer input and will be willing to commit to implementing some of the ideas customers share? I’d go so far as to say, if you have no support from the product organization, then you shouldn’t collect ideas on products. Never make promises with your technology that your processes can’t keep. 🙂
Also, while I was at it, I gathered some examples of ideation on Lithium customer sites. Who knows, maybe you'll run into the community managers here on Lithosphere, and pick their brains too: Best Buy, BT, F-Secure, Giffgaff, Jigsaw, National Instruments, Spotify, Verizon.
Hope this helps!
@JoeC- I'm attempting to justify a community site to the powers that be and alongside that an open ideation page. We already have an "idea exchange" program that includes several other programs to meet with clients through cohorts, focus groups, etc, however our clients are asking for a more transparent suggestion box in addition to the programs. Leadership would prefer to provide a select number of ideas to vote on rather than have the larger audience submit feedback and suggestions. but I feel very strongely that it should be open or at least open to registered members. Have you come across anything that supports this?
Hi Marissa -
Seems to me there are three considerations embedded in your question:
Should the idea exchange allow users to submit ideas, or just comment and rate the ideas you present to them?
Should the idea exchange be open for browsing to all users, or just to registered users?
Should the idea exchange be open for all registered users to participate, or for just a subset of users to participate?
Based on my observations, companies get the biggest benefit from allowing users to contribute ideas, in a public forum that is visible to all users and open for all registered members to participate. Allowing all users to contribute ideas means you aren't limited to just those ideas you already know about; making the exchange public makes it easier for all users to see if their idea has already been suggested (or even implemented), which increases satisfaction and reduces repetitive requests; and allowing all registered users to participate simpy recognizes that you really don't know who might come up with the next great idea.
Having said that, we've seen many different configurations for idea exchanges, and I don't think it makes sense to be religious about always needing to be one way only. However, there are some potential pitfalls to be avoided. First, if you do limit participation to comments, or limit participants to a small group, I think you might want to create a time-limited "session" for ideation, rather than just launching it and leaving it open on an ongoing basis. Ideation is somewhat scale-sensitive - you need a lot of participant to really make it useful, because you need a lot of votes to make prioritization possible. You can potentially drive a lot of participation from a small group of people, but only if you do it over a short period of time, and promote the heck out of it. Because a small group generally won't be able to keep the conversation going over weeks and months.
So I wouldn't necessarily say that your internal stakeholders are wrong -- in fact, maybe doing something like a short-term ideation exercise is exactly what they need to "get their feet wet" and start feeling comfortable with the process. Having said that, your instincts about where the most value lies are absolutely right!
Also tagging @CesarC for his thoughts -- he's the guy I turn to on topics related to ideation.
Hope this helps.
And @KaiBoon, sorry I missed your post!