CIOs consistently tell us that they want to exploit new technologies to drive innovation in the business. While many CIOs have groups chartered with R&D or new technology research, and most organizations have defined processes to “commercialize” those technology innovations that appear promising in their pilots, the middle period – between ideation and commercialization – is one with fewer management models and methods. During this time, there may be good ideas funded for prototyping, a number of projects funded for further study, and a number of prototypes waiting for the time to be ripe for commercialization.
So, how do we manage these mid-stage ideas and prototypes? Here are some ideas we’ve seen work that you might be able to use in your organization:
Track the prototypes. Just because an innovation process may be outside of the standard governance and management structure, it doesn’t mean we can’t share the same tools. Register your “innovation” projects in the same database as other projects. Link them all to a single “innovation” program to keep it easy to manage this group as a whole – and segregate them from your ongoing application or improvement initiatives and new project implementations.
Give someone overall responsibility for the innovation portfolio. If dispersed, initiatives can be “lost.” Centralized oversight of the portfolio will give it visibility.
I had an interesting conversation with a Forrester client in response to an inquiry about the definition of “time to value” for technology solutions. When I received the question, I thought, “That’s easy!” While there is no “GAAP” definition of time to value, I was ready to say that it would be one of two things:
1- The time from project start to the start of business benefit accrual. So, if a project took 12 months to implement, and then three months for the business to adapt to it, the time until business benefits began to accrue would be 15 months.
2- The time from project start to the date at which cumulative business benefits exceeded the cumulative costs. In other words, the time until the “payback” of the investment.
However, in trolling around to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything, I stumbled upon a potential third definition (and I wish I could point back to the source). One commentator on the Web suggested something a bit different – and something that has a great deal of merit as we rely more and more on technology to drive business gains. In his definition, time to value represented the time until the business targets for the solution were achieved. So, rather than looking at the start of benefits, or the date we’re no longer cash-negative, we are now looking at the time until the full desired benefits are achieved. So this becomes:
3- Time to value is the time from project initiation until the projection of total business benefits is achieved.
This change in perspective has a number of implications: