A review of idea and innovation software

October 10th, 2008
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The most popular post I’ve written to date is a review of prediction market software. Today’s post is going to be the same, but for idea/innovation software (henceforth referred to as innovation software).

Trying to even find and identify all the different types of innovation software is difficult because of the different ways people and companies think about innovation. Prediction markets are straightforward; they’re futures markets, so the software is largely the interface between the user and the order book on the database. That is not at all so for innovation software. Different people think about innovation in different ways, which I referred to in a previous post.

The list below is likely not complete, but I believe it does pick up the major players.

Digg for Ideas (ranking systems)

Salesforce – Salesforce’s solution is really well known, having been used by Starbucks in the myStarbucksIdea contest and also in Dell’s IdeaStorm. It’s a simple popularity contest, but tied in nicely with Salesforce’s platform. I’ve heard, however, that it required a significant time investment on Starbuck’s/Dell’s part in order to properly evaluate the highest-ranked ideas internally, even before they ever reached the stage of implementation.

BrightIdea – The information on BrightIdea’s software is relatively scarce; just a list of features. It looks like it’s trying to be a one-stop shop for everything, from research to idea ranking to analytics to rewards to financials and more. I understand that it’s a fairly mature product, and they have some solid clients. Overall, it’s a bit of a dark horse.

Hype Idea Management – This is a German product, and looks to be fairly basic; it’s just an idea capture and rating system. To me it looks both too basic (in general) and too complex (particularly when it comes to ranking/rating).

Idea Central from imaginatik – This is yet another piece of software that seems to exist only in a list of bulletpoints and large blocks of text. Based on their claims of paying clients it must exist and work, but I would certainly appreciate some screenshots and demos to understand what it actually focuses on.

Spigit – I’m really not sure what to think of Spigit. They look to have a fairly advanced product, which is actually three products: IdeaSpigit, InnovationSpigit, and ContestSpigit. IdeaSpigit seems to be a standard “Digg for ideas” model, where you get feedback from customers like the Salesforce IdeaExchange. InnovationSpigit is an application to use internally, with quite (and needlessly?) sophisticated algorithms to rate/rank ideas. It also bills itself as a prediction market, so I’m not sure how much of the system is a ranking/rating system and how much of it is a market-based system. Finally, ContestSpigit is the same kind of system but for a specific campaign.

Spigit seems to have a good client base and their software has won an award or two, but it’s tough to tell how useful it actually is for their clients. To me it appears to be needlessly complex, but I believe these systems should be simple and useable above all else. Their marketing positions them as a significant competitor in this industry, but I’m not sure how much is hype and how much is truth.

Market-based (aka betting-based) solutions

Nosco IdeaExchange – Nosco is a great company from Denmark that I first met a couple of years ago. They first developed a portfolio of software applications that included prediction markets and what they call an Idea Exchange. Since then they’ve found much more demand for the Idea Exchanges and have since shifted their focus to that alone.

Their Idea Exchange is still modeled off of a futures market, where you can buy and sell ideas. I still would suspect a model like this to be susceptible to gaming and in general becoming a Keynesian beauty contest. (People don’t buy what is worthwhile, they buy what they think others will think is worthwhile.) That said, they’ve what looks to be a mature product that looks fantastic and has been used by a number of Danish companies.

Consensus Point – Some clients of ConsensusPoint use their standard ForesightServer software to run prediction markets on ideas. I’ve mentioned before how prediction markets aren’t suitable for this. To ConsensusPoint’s credit, they aren’t specifically marketing a one-solution-fits-all approach; it’s just what their clients are doing with the software.

NewsFutures Idea Pageant – I really like the quote from NewsFutures on their Idea Pageant page: “A large number of ideas makes a standard prediction market approach impractical.” While I don’t think that’s the only criticism, it’s a good chunk of a start.

The Idea Pageant is a fairly straightforward and easy to understand application. Each person gets a number of positive (green) votes/tokens and a smaller number of negative (red) votes/tokens. These can be refreshed periodically, and the consistently positive ideas float to the top.

Qmarkets – Qmarkets is another prediction markets startup that seems to have also moved into the innovation software arena. There’s a fairly extensive feature list; so much so I’m not sure how to gauge exactly how complex the software actually is. Without screenshots, it’s tough to tell how well developed the solution is, but it’s certainly a potential player in the market.

Xpree – The Xpree Open Innovation Markets seems to be a bit of a hybrid solution. It has a voting system for ideas, but then later management can transfer those ideas into a prediction market. This seems to be a well-thought-out way of approaching the problem. However, I personally believe that a client could shoot themselves in the foot with poor implementation of this software. It’s all too easy to start to turn every idea into a prediction market, and that (again) is a bad plan.

Marketplace solutions (specific innovations sought)

InnoCentive – InnoCentive is one of the most well-known idea marketplaces. They’ve had some good successes so far, and substantial press coverage. I would assume they are trying to quickly ensure they take advantage of network effects and become the primary marketplace for innovators and the companies looking for innovations.

NineSigma – NineSigma is another company in this arena. It’s less a true marketplace than a forum to receive and respond to RFP’s. They do seem to have a decent client list, and have been in business since 2000.

PhilOptima – PhilOptima is a similar innovation marketplace, but is aimed at “grant makers” and thus has a different audience on the innovation seeker side.

Innovation Exchange – This site appears to be a marketplace for innovations in general, without much focus. While that’s great in principle, I think the lack of focus perhaps hurts their chances in getting significant penetration in any market, and thus any substantial market share. I mention this because there will likely be a race for market share amongst these sites, and only the winner will get the ideal network effects.

fellowforce – This is similar to Innovation Exchange, but geared more toward the Web2.0 crowd, with widgets and rankings prominently promoted.

Full-fledged Marketplace solutions (specific innovations sought and sold)

Yet2 – I’m really intrigued by this site. What’s unique is that it offers something both for companies with specific innovation needs (like the category above) but also for entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists with innovations they believe have commercial potential. While the design is a bit harsh visually, it’s a very intriguing concept.

Other

Rite-Solutions – Rite-Solutions became quite well known a couple of years ago based on a well-known article in the New York Times that discussed how they used their software to allow everyone in the company to discuss and promote their ideas internally. It’s become quite a successful product for them (though perhaps not as lucrative as some of their government/gaming industry work!).

BrainBank – BrainBank looks to be a very interesting software solution that promotes both the ranking and refining of ideas, but also some management around implementation. It’s very interesting.

MindMatters – I classified MindMatters software in this category since I couldn’t quite tell what the main purpose of the software actually is. It mentions idea capture, challenges and workflow, but it wasn’t obvious how they all fit together in their particular software application.

Summary

There are a multitude of different approaches to innovation, and there are a multitude of different software applications to help companies and organisations innovate. Are there any true market leaders? Not as far as I can tell. Some, like Salesforce, are quite well known, but aren’t necessarily that useful for a wide cross-section of companies.

This post is meant simply to review and discuss different software applications available around innovation. I plan to write much more on how innovation does and can work in organisations. You can find all of my past innovation-related posts here, and future posts will go there, too.

I sincerely look forward to your feedback.

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31 Responses to “A review of idea and innovation software”

  1. Noam Danon Says:

    Jed,
    great summary of all the different vendors and an interesting classification. I agree with most of it.

    Personally, i would add another category (I don't have a good name for it) – maybe “End-2-End Idea Management” – which has the “Digg for Ideas” features, along with powerfull process-oriented (work flow) features an enterprise needs.
    This is where i would put our own solution (Qmarkets), along with some of the other players (like Imaginatik).
    Qmarkets Prediction markets is a different product, that could be integrated into our idea management – but like the quote by NewsFutures, these are two very separate things.

    Anyway – thanks for the tip – we'll be sure to add screenshots to our site, alongside the free trials we setup for anyone interested in trying it out (contact me if you want one as well – it is two minutes the setup).

    Noam Danon,

  2. jedc_mercury Says:

    Hi, Noam. Thanks for the reply.

    I certainly would encourage showing screenshots, demos, etc. on your site. It would certainly clarify the benefits and the different use cases.

    Do you see Imaginatik as a primary competitor? I would be quite interested in your opinions on how the market should be categorized.

  3. Noam Danon Says:

    There's another way to look at it, and that's by categorizing the vendors (and not their solutions). I think it givrs a good picture of the solution as well.
    Main categories are:
    - Pure innovation management – vendors that put their emphasis here, and provide an end-2-end idea management solution. I'd put the Qmarkets solution here (naturally…), along with Imaginatik, hype, brainbank and maybe more.

    - PLM companies – innovation is not their focus. they sell large PLM systems, and idea management is a small add-on module for them. I'm sure they have good solutions, but I would imagine this influences their focus, and the kind of customers that buy it.

    - Prediction markets companies – that provide some sort of basic idea ranking along side prediction markets. These companies normally offer 1 solution, that combines prediction markets deep into the idea management. This includes Xpree, and i thing Nosco and others (we thought of this solution, but eventually decided against it, since idea management is totally different).

    - big boys – like SalesForces and even IBM or Microsoft – that offer very large systems, and have an idea management features/module. Again, very far from their focus, but probably has their advantages as well.

    - marketplaces – this is a very different solution, answering different needs than all the rest. These are online “open innovation” sites.A company can not setup their own idea management process, but rather can use the online community for getting ideas, ranking them and more.

    I do not mean to say any of these is better or worse, it's just my way of looking at this market.

  4. jedc_mercury Says:

    That's really interesting, and it looks to be a very sensible way of looking at the marketplace.

    How do you separate the “pure innovation management” applications from the rest? I'm curious where you would put BrightIdea, Spigit, MindMatters and Rite-Solutions within your categorization.

    How does interest in your prediction markets product compare to your idea management product? I know I've heard more about your prediction markets software, but I find it's interesting that you've used a completely different approach (aka, non-market-based) for the idea management software.

  5. Noam Danon Says:

    that's harder to separate.
    I think there's a scale – ranging from what you call simple/basic ranking systems, to the more enterprise grade complex systems.
    I imagine bright idea, Mind matters & Spigit are in our category.

    As for interest – I think innovation management is a much more mature market – in terms of vendor selection, and in term of customer requirements & interest.

  6. msbendts Says:

    A good collection as a starting point..and from the comments dialog the categorization is interesting. Many of them classify themselves as Innovation Managment, but most really fall into just helping you to manage how to collect and sort ideas (what I'd call Idea Management or the “Digg” part of your entry).

    I've found very few that can actaully manage the innovation process (from discovery, to ideation, to elaboration, to experimentation, to production). I'd place the MindMatters Innovator product and the BrightIdea's innovation “platform” into that category. (Sorry, haven't looked at the QMarkets stuff yet…)

    As you mentioned in your entry, the websites don't give you the best picture of what can happen…getting into the demos (or trial software) opens up what the potential is. The BrightIdea website talks about their WebStorm product, and then some loose concept of an innovation platform…until you get a demo do you realize that the WebStorm is a colletion and ranking tool, and the “platform” is actually a product that they sell (not just a concept) that can help monitor that idea through several stage gate and workflow business rules.

    MindMatters Innovator is an even more robust solution for managing that idea through your business, including a very easy transistion into having that idea move into the patent process. Most workflow and business managment solutions focus on business models that are up and operational…the MindMatters tool is a great way to keep track of that fuzzy concept as you are still flushing out the business case.

    Kluster (http://www.kluster.com/) is another intriguing offering that is a 'voting' or 'wisdom of the crowds' tool, but offers some very interesting means of how to rank ideas that could be something to learn from.

    Others to research and categorize accordingly…
    CogniStramer Innovation Portal — http://www.innovationportal.eu
    Creax Innovation Suite — http://www.creaxinnovationsuite.com
    Employee Suggestion Box — https://www.employeesuggestionbox.com
    IBM Innovation Factory — http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/cio/empower/
    id Force — http://www.id-force.de
    Imagineware — http://www.imagineware.com/imagineware/iw-broch
    Jenni Idea Managment — http://www.jpb.com/jenni/index.php

    But, again, thanks for your list and there are some here that I'll poke my nose more into.

  7. Manoj Says:

    Hi Jed,

    Excellent summary of the various tools. I was searching for a similar summary. I will add your entry to my Innovation twine – http://www.twine.com/twine/11gbf3r61-y3/innovat…. You are welcome to join my innovation Twine too.

    Manoj

  8. Geoff Carss Says:

    Forrester have recently published a number of papers on this emergent market – and it appears other analysts are starting to cover it as well. At Imaginatik we focus on enabling large scale collaborative innovation and problem solving – often company wide in some very large companies. As you suggest – our client references are outstanding – because of the benefits we deliver through our platform and research (we started as a reearch company a few years ago) – one of of clients (Pfizer) made an equity investment – which really demonstrates our value. Happy to take you through what we do at greater length

  9. Paul Tran Says:

    We at BrightIdea use the term “Innovation Pipeline Management” and not just idea collection with Digg style rankings. Collection of ideas are the easy part…its turning those ideas into reality that takes hard work and good tools. Our Platform product is a mature product with over 300 clients using it today.

    An innovation management platform must be flexible (configured in any way towards business processes), easy to use, promotes collaboration (web 2.0), and drives ROI. Without true ROI from the system, it is hard to measure the effectiveness of innovation within an organization. We are heavily focused on ROI with our system.

    We view the innovation marketplace to have more and more vendors each year which helps define the space and at the same time validating it. I believe there will be more incorporation of Social Media components in the space to promote collaboration. At the same time, companies will rely more and more on innovation processes to stay competitive. This will release more budget towards innovation consulting services and tool providers. We've seen this change in the market and it reflects on our own business today.

    Partnerships will be established within the marketplace. As an example, we've been collaborating with IP.com (intellectual property management of ideas in our system) and Xpree (use Prediction Markets to determine outcomes of ideas in our system). Ultimately, we need to provide more and more value to our clients to keep satisfaction at a high level.

  10. jedc_mercury Says:

    Thanks for the links! I'll look into them and update this…

  11. jedc_mercury Says:

    Hi, Geoff, and thanks for replying.

    I'd certainly be interested in talking with you in depth. I can be reached at jedDOTchristiansen AT mercury-racDOTcom (with the obvious anti-spam replacements).

  12. jedc_mercury Says:

    Hi, Paul, and thanks for replying. It's interesting to hear your views on the marketplace. I agree that innovation as a topic in business is growing, but I'm not always convinced that companies are really taking it seriously. (It can too easily slip into becoming a buzz-word instead of something meaningful.)

    I would encourage you to put more screenshots/descriptions of your product on your webpage, with all the bulletpoints it was a bit difficult to tell what your product was really about.

  13. Yazeed Says:

    Does anyone have where i can get information on Best practices for idea review and evaluation.

  14. jedc_mercury Says:

    I don't have any direct references, but hope to post more on this topic here soon.

  15. sustenergy Says:

    Thanks for this overview. We're at this very moment looking into prediction markets, and your overview couldn't come at a better time.

  16. jedc_mercury Says:

    I'm glad that this was useful to you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

  17. Mark Turrell Says:

    CEO of Imaginatik here – it is hard being the only Public Company in your list (which also means we have to tell the truth about what we do – no implications for anyone else) with a 10 year track record. We developed the first Idea Management software – in fact we developed many of the methods being used around the world, including time-based focused challenges and points based programs.

    I'd be happy to arrange a demo – and if you did try to get someone from my firm to help out and they did not respond, I'll make sure it does not happen again.

    Cheers,

    Mark

  18. jedc_mercury Says:

    Thanks for that, Mark. I wish you all the best as a public company in these crazy economic times.

    Based on your comment, do you feel that some of your competitors play loosely with reality?

  19. scottberkun.com » Wednesday linkfest Says:

    [...] Review of idea generation / innovation management software. It’s more of a listing than a review, but it’s the closest thing I’ve found. I get asked about this all the time – anyone know of a better comparative review of these kinds of “creativity support” tools? [...]

  20. Knowtu » links for 2009-01-30 Says:

    [...] Mercury’s Blog » Blog Archive » A review of idea and innovation software (tags: innovation) [...]

  21. Review Of Idea and Innovation Software « Steps & Leaps Says:

    [...] recent mini-review here of 19 software tools for capturing, evaluating, marketing and selling ideas for product or service [...]

  22. Jenny Ambrozek Says:

    Jed,. Good to see you continuing to push thinking about predction markets, collective intelligence and innovation forward. You might be interested in a piece a colleague and I wrote last year for Inside Knowledge Magazine: http://snurl.com/cmzd5 For me, Carlos dos Santos” use of prediction markets at Qualcomm remains the most evolved and intelligent PM application. His integration of the technology into a thoughtful organizational structure promising the opportuity to present a new product business plan to the C-suite is inspired.

    Separately there are some folks to whom I would like to introduce you. Can we please connect via email? I look forward to catching up. If you are on Twitter please share your user name. I'm “sagenet”. Thanks

  23. jedc_mercury Says:

    Hi, Jenny. Thanks for commenting.

    I have to be honest; based on my understanding of Qualcomm's use of prediction markets, I'm really skeptical of how they're used. I understand that they're using PM's to rank new product/service ideas, which I think is an inappropriate use of PM's. What tends to happen is that people trade/buy those ideas that they think _other_ people will buy, and not necessarily the best ideas. I believe that doing so may find good ideas, but they'll be conventional ideas. The ground-breaking ideas won't get noticed.

    That said, if they feel it works for them, that's fine. But I think there are other tools that are better suited for innovation. I'm doing a fair bit of work on this now, and hope to be able to talk about it more widely later this year.

  24. Hutch Carpenter Says:

    Hi Jed -

    Thanks for including Spigit in your write-up. You're right – we are seeing great uptake by enterprise customers. Managing the multiple sources of ideas, and filtering for those that are most useful, is an *idea* that is taking root in the corporate world.

    You raise some good questions about us, and I'll answer them here. First, in terms of complexity vs simplicity. The platform is actually quite easy for employees, customers and partners to use. It leverages some of the best practices one finds for social software: votes, tags, discussion forums, clickable reviews, wikis, blogs. We also provide a market for users to buy and sell ideas. Any or all of these are available for use when deployed, internally or externally.

    We put a premium on a superior user experience.

    The analytics engine and enterprise workflow of the platform is why companies are signing up for Spigit. Simple popularity contests for ideas do give a single metric – number of votes. Certainly that is a form of simplicity. But it's doesn't come close to mapping to the way innovation really works inside corporations. Spigit has designed-in functionality that reflects the different influence users have in advancing an idea forward.

    Spigit's platform has enterprise workflow built-in. Role-based reviews and approvals, quantifiable criteria to advance through stages, and high configurability to adapt to each company's specific processes.

    Happy to tell you more about what Spigit is up to. Please drop us a note at info@spigit.com.

    Hutch Carpenter
    Director of Marketing
    Spigit, Inc.
    http://spigit.com

  25. jedc_mercury Says:

    Thanks, Hutch. I appreciate the additional info.

  26. Jeffrey Baumgartner Says:

    Have you looked at Jenni innovation process management? Details at http://www.jpb.com/jenni/index.php

    We'd be happy to arrange a demo for you…

    Jeffrey Baumgartner

  27. jedc_mercury Says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. Will definitely take a look at it and include it in an updated post.

  28. jedc_mercury Says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. Will definitely take a look at it and include it in an updated post.

  29. Innovation Management Software - Topic Research, Trends and Surveys Says:

    [...] and most innovative companies in the world including: … market research, surveys and trends Mercury's Blog » Blog Archive » A review of idea and innovation … Today’s post is going to be the same, but for idea/innovation software (henceforth referred [...]

  30. links for 2009-06-02 - Oliver Biederbeck Says:

    [...] problem solving. (tags: Innovation Software Tools crowdsourcing collaboration Management) A review of idea and innovation software (tags: Innovation Management OpenSource Software Tools crowdsourcing collaboration) Timetric: [...]

  31. Buy Sell Swap Says:

    [...] Simple marketplace where people can buy, sell and swap items or services. Original Post: http://blog.mercury-rac.com/2008/10/10/a-review-of-idea-and-innovation-software/ [...]

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