Managing innovation can get very complicated. In the spirit of everything we do at SoapBox, we wanted to show you all the available options and break it down into the elements that matter when purchasing idea software.
It is one thing to want to run an idea program (we wrote a stellar post about continuous vs challenges), and another to know what options are available. To help, we wrote this useful guide.
Idea Platform Options
Let’s start with the most common idea platform: email.
Email is like someone standing at a park yelling your ideas. Yes it is free and anyone can do it, but the chances of success or having your idea heard is very small. More often than not, ideas disappear into a black hole (like ideas that go into an employee suggestion box).
An email idea program is fairly simple. Employees send ideas to a designated email address and the person in charge of the program forwards the ideas to the most appropriate leader.
An idea program run through your inbox is about as affordable as it gets. There is no extra software or learning required, it is easily accessed by employees, and the email program will not impact your budget.
- Difficult to Manage
Running an idea program through your email is a lot of manual work, especially if you want it to be successful. Using your email will mean that you will need to take extra steps like transferring ideas to a spreadsheet to keep track of their current status.
- Limited Engagement Options
Without the necessary features for engagement like voting and commenting, the risk of disengaging employees increases substantially. You are limited to individually responding to each submitted idea to avoid sounding like an automatic email and maintain engagement.
Another platform we often see is using the company intranet, which sometimes has bonus features that allow leaders to collect ideas. The company will ask employees to submit ideas through Jive or Yammer to engage their employees.
- Cost Effective
Most companies have their own intranet which they use to connect employees across the company. Piggy-backing on your existing software means that you will not need any extra resources to run your idea program
- Wide Reach
On an active company intranet, one of the biggest pros is that the platform already has an extensive reach across the organization. Most employees will already have access and it should be fairly easy for employees to use.
- Limited Features Required for Prolonged Engagement
While using the company intranet does have more engagement features like allowing employees to see each other’s ideas, that is the limit of enterprise social software. While they can reach many employees, they do not have the features required for continuous engagement and innovation.
- Difficult to Manage the Topic of Conversation
Due to the open forum system of company social software, it is extremely difficult to manage the conversation. The discussion can quickly turn away from innovative ideas to complaining about working conditions, which can cause disengagement, decrease productivity, and ultimately create an HR nightmare. Without powerful management features, leaders will spend extraordinary efforts to recreate a positive conversation, which has a real possibility of failing.
Many companies choose to build their own in-house software for collecting ideas.
One of the key benefits to building your own software is that you can build the features to fit your existing technology infrastructure. Furthermore, you can continue to customize it with new features as your program progresses or as new needs appear.
- Can Be Costly
Building a homegrown platform can quickly become very costly. You will need to balance manpower with time because the fewer employees that are dedicated, the longer you will have to wait before you can launch your program. On the other hand, the more employees you dedicate to this project, the larger the sacrifices on other projects. One option is to hire temporary staff to build the software, but that can also quickly become expensive.
- High Risk of Failure
Building a platform with the essential features for a successful program and without the right expertise is extremely difficult. Building your software will mean that you have to make design and user flow decisions that without prior experience, which can result in building the wrong features altogether. By the time you realize that it is the wrong feature or that you are missing a component, it may be too late to fix economically or efficiently.
One other option is to purchase third-party software. Third-party idea software is designed specifically to engage employees, generate high quality ideas, and make it easy for leaders to implement ideas.
- Features Designed to Help Engage and Innovate
With a whole company working on the platform, you will never have to worry about having the right features you need for a successful idea program.
At SoapBox for example, we have a dedicated Client Success Team built into our program that will help guide you through the launch of your idea program and engage your employees to continue to grow your idea program. Working with some of the most innovative companies in North America, our Client Success team has helped to build some of the most successful idea programs.
- Can Be Expensive
Idea programs generally work through a subscription payment which occurs on a yearly basis. Find out more by speaking to our business development representatives to learn more about SoapBox.