Technology and the Fortune 500 – A New Type of Software Company?

Categories: Innovation Insights, Innovation Software

Many thanks for Avi for the comment:

“Mark – I agree with you 100% when you say that … Idea Management is fundamentally a people and management process supported by technology… Do you think, however, that long term this reality will transform your firm to more of a professional services company with unique business expertise in idea management/innovation rather than becoming a pure software provider?

I have been working with a Fortune 500 company on establishing an innovation process. At the core of this business process is Idea Management which includes the capture/creation, management, collaboration, ranking, and ultimately the identification of ideas that can be monetized. They, like others, are using existing applications that are already part of the technology messaging infrastructure that can be extended to provide Idea Management. The need by large organizations to leverage existing investments may be part of the issue that you are facing when leading sales with software.”


You raise an interesting point about where we are going, and where clients are going. I do not think there will be any successful pure-play software company in innovation. There will be pure play software companies who have their applications used for innovation-related activities, but history shows that these are unlikely to be stellar successes. Naked sofware is still naked, however you cut it.

As for Imaginatik, we have always been a curious breed. You cannot do this well without being deep process experts, and you cannot scale an innovation process without solid, flexible technology. We were born of this conundrum in the mid-1990s. AMR even highlighted this bizarre combination when they highlighted Imaginatik as one of the “5 Vendors to Watch in PLM“. We may be an unusal combination, but we may be “just what the doctor ordered”.

In terms of the large companies trying to leverage their infrastructure, what is really going on is IT departments trying to leverage their large IT investment, to occasionally deliver a modicum of business value to the ‘low-end’ business processes. I have yet to see a world class innovation system built by in-house IT, and I would be stunned to see one in practice. It is just not a core business. If you add on to this that many companies have outsourced their IT departments, who is left to do the work.

The other thing is a case of working out what ‘leveraging the IT investments’ really means. We, like other vendors, use the intranet layer, the pervasive web browser, existing web servers, VPN connections to the outside, security models, ActiveDirectory, LDAP, SiteMinder single-sign on, messaging, etc. We leverage the IT infrastructure layer. The weak-minded business users allow in-house IT to make business applications that sit on top of that layer – and suffer as a consequence in the main.

The messaging layer is renouned for being a BAD platform for Idea Management – and for just about any serious, collaborative, secure, sustainable business process. I wrote about this a while back on the perils of e-mail based Idea Management – the situation has not changed (I just need to get the word out a little more).

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