Naked! Idea Management Software Exposed!

Categories: Innovation Insights, Innovation Software

I was working on a client project recently – a large, tough one. The most senior sponsor at the client had said all the right words – he wanted his company to be an ‘innovation company’ and therefore engage all employees in the process. Then a wonderful form of ‘Lost in Translation’ occurred, and the actual implementation team focused on bare-bones functionality and lowest cost. They would never admit to going for bare-bones, but I swear that is what they did.

Now, we lost the client to a cheaper bare-bones software vendor, and this started me thinking. My firm, Imaginatik, has worked for several years on exploring the idea management process, and embedding often subtle features into the technology. Moreover, our methods cannot be solely technology-driven, and so we need to teach our clients how to use our software.

Our competition does not have this base of research and experience. They are mainly software engineers who thought that ‘innovation’ was a hot topic and an ‘easy’ thing to make software for. They were able to work at the low-end of the market, go for ultra-low cost projects, all with the aim of getting their foot in the door.

The sad thing is that Idea Management is fundamentally a people and management process supported by technology. Any implementation driven by technology is destined to fail. We know that – and the bright people inside the clients know that (interestingly, people who do not buy from us usually disappear whenb the project starts with another vendor… maybe they really do take our advice to ‘run for the hills’ if IT win the evaluation process).

Now, this gets me to naked software. I’m going to do a lot more thinking on this topic, but here it is:

Companies who implement collaborative or knowledge management software applications, such as Idea Management, without real and honest consideration and incorporation of human and leadership issues are implementing naked software. Naked software is not a good thing. Naked software gets bought and rarely used. It gives IT departments a bad name (or at least it should do), and the decision-maker who purchased such software tends to find themelves at the front-end of a career limiting move (and it serves them right – if they do so in full knowledge of what they are doing).

So, here it begins – my one-man campaign against naked software. To the ramparts!

5 Responses to “Naked! Idea Management Software Exposed!”

  1. Mark, thanks for the announcement about your blog! Being a regular blog reader, I am delighted to add yours to my list.

    BTW, what is Boris’ opinion on naked software?

    Best!

  2. Boris here

    Well – although I have reservations with the necessity for adding a new term to my already quite packed “business-jargon bingo card” – the concept is solid.

    The KM industry has long been looking for ways in which to automatically tap into and exploit human capital – but with very limited results.

    In my mind, a lot of the reason for that is an over dependance on technology to achieve the business goal of what is fundamentally a human process. However, companies too frequently would make the fatal mistake of assigning an IT person to make the purchase decision. The IT person would then do his job – but his viewpoint is that of IT – ie, does it fit our technical infrastructure, do the feature sets look comparable, can we support in-house, etc.

    Vendors then realised this and focused on providing IT solutions rather than business solutions – the end game being that companies would buy “functional” IT infrastructure to support a process they hadn’t yet defined – and were then tying themselves into the process defined by the IT vendor.

    Most IT vendors however, were not developing software on a base of research and process expertise (something I’ve always been very proud we’ve continued to do at Imaginatik – and a main reason why I believe our clients have been so much more successful than our more IT-based competition). They would come up with software that sounded cool, or had various buzz tools which IT departments looked for. It did not, however, support the best possible human side of the equation – and in this, they were essentially asking the business people to do the equivelent of re-engineering a hand to fit a glove.

    Is it a surprise then that so many programs failed? No – I think it’s a surprise any of them worked at all. Amusingly – in the KM industry, most of the “successful” ones were actually those based on the simplest and most basic of technologies. PwC’s “Kraken” – frequently cited as a poster child for Communities of Practice – was little more than an e-mail group (I used to work at PwC and was part of that group myself!). The real reason it worked was because the process fit the need.

    In innovation – the same is true – although the process is far more complex – and hence why it is utterly important to work with process experts to get the process right before enabling tool is implemented. In that way, and in that way alone, will innovation deliver upon its promise at your organisation.

    In short, if the IT people in your company want to implement “naked software” as mark puts it – stick a firewall around their department….literally.

  3. Boris, thank you for the concise and informative response. I agree with your assessment of the situation.

    My apologies for assuming that you were acquainted with the term, “naked software,” but I was almost certain that I had heard Mark reference you and those words in the same sentence.

  4. Hi C

    That’s quite possible, it isn’t that I wasn’t familiar with it (the concept is certainly something both Mark and I have mentioned at conferences in the past), I just don’t like the term much – Semantics, you know😉

    It’s good to get this out now though – in the stage of market we’re getting to, this is increasingly happening more and more in the innovation market – it would be a shame for this market to fall down the same trap as KM.. People have to be warned!

  5. Mark, I think you should have a NO Naked Software website so that companies like encanvas.com can sign up for it. Happy to help.

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