Christopher Andrews serves Sourcing & Vendor Management Professionals. See the full Analyst bio. Visit Forrester.com to learn how we make Sourcing & Vendor Management Professionals successful every day.
As many readers know, I have a strong interest in understanding the practical realities of innovation and want to help companies define what that "buzzword" means -- what it is, who manages it, and why it's important (see my just-published report on the ecosystem of innovation services providers).
I believe Sourcing and Vendor Management (SVM) can and should play a critical role in the innovation process. However, my biggest disappointment when I speak to many technology vendors, IT professionals, and business users is when they tell me that they avoid working with SVM when purchasing (or in the cases of vendors, selling) a new technology. Fairly or unfairly, they see SVM's involvement as a bureaucratic stumbling block that will stifle their ability to move quickly or pick the technology vendor they want. For these people, SVM acts as a barrier, not an enabler, of innovation.
I recently finished the draft of my report on the ecosystem of innovation services providers. This report, to be published in July, explores the landscape of companies that are unified by a single purpose: they are dedicated to helping their clients unleash their own innovation potential. These are not companies who simply use "innovation" as a marketing buzzword. Rather, they are dedicated to the discipline of innovation – and bring unique innovation expertise to clients in wide variety of corporate roles. This report builds on much of Forrester’s previous work related to Innovation Networks and Innovation Management, but expands the "ecosystem" to consider all of the companies I interact with that have a distinct innnovation focus. In the report, I explore the offerings of:
Strategy consulting organizations
Technology service providers
Product management firms
Outsourced product development firms
Idea management/solution generation companies
Other niche service providers (including training program, design firms, and others)
I argue that this ecosystem of providers will be an increasingly important part of a comprehensive innovation strategy. However, it will be up to very knowledgeable and “connected” individuals within companies to help manage the diverse players, and connect suppliers to the right role, at the right point in the innovation process. I also argue that this is an opportunity for SVM professionals who want to play a more strategic role in their organizations.
Unfortunately, this week’s IT Forum is at the same time as the World Innovation Forum, which many of my professional colleagues are attending. But Forrester’s IT Forums still give me a much great opportunity to interact with people who are working on innovation initiatives, so I'm not complaining. I’m looking forward to reporting on my experience in Lisbon next week.
Here are a few of my observations from the Vegas event:
I just had the chance to attend the "Front End of Innovation" (FEI) conference at the World Trade Center in Boston May 3-5. This event is sponsored by variety of innovation management suppliers, and included some great speakers like James Surowiecki (author of "The Wisdom of Crowds") and Sophie Vanderbroek (President of Xerox Innovation Group). Though I was only able to attend two of the three days at this event, I was able to leave with a solid impression on the innovation management marketplace.
A few of my notes from this event:
There is a unique innovation marketplace. With the sheer diversity of innovation discussions taking place at this event, I found it interesting to question whether the there is such thing as a common innovation management marketplace. I think there is. Everyone I spoke to at this event was either trying to unlock innovation potential within their own organization, or was trying to help their clients unlock their own innovation potential. In this regard, the marketplace for innovation is quite different with the boarder market of social collaboration tools and technologies -which I do not think has the same mission.
The market is broader than many realize. Despite the common objectives, the companies in this "market" bring a wide variety of different capabilities to the table. For example, at this event, I interacted with:
Companies like Spigit, Imaginatik, Idea8, and Kindling who have software tools focusing on idea management (but each with unique strengths)
NineSigma and Innocentive who are leveraging their "open innovation" heritage to bring new business models and a distinct offerings to clients
Innosight, which brings more management consulting offerings and thought leadership to lead its strategy consulting engagements
Seek, Futurethink, and Maddock Douglas which do not focus nearly as much on technology, but instead on methodologies, thought leadership, and workshops that can help clients clarify innovation objectives.
In my recent report, “Contracting for Innovation With Service Providers,” I argue that many sourcing and vendor management professionals have difficulty contracting for innovation, because the term “innovation” itself is elusive and subject to interpretation.
In my research, I note that for sourcing professionals to effectively contract for innovation, they need to be able to understand the business objectives of a broad base of internal innovation stakeholders – and consider whether their service providers can align with these objectives. In the report, I considered the needs of three primary stakeholders – IT, business, and executive-level stakeholders.
But there are far more innovation stakeholders. After writing that report, I decided to review all of Forrester’s inquiries related to innovation over the past year to see if I could identify other innovation stakeholders. After a review of about 500 detailed client inquiries about innovation, I’ve compiled a list of categories I have seen.
This list of innovation interests is quite diverse (and this is just a preliminary summary!). But the exercise helps us see how innovation is interpreted differently by different parts of the organization. With this information, we can identify unique innovation objectives and have a much more informed discussion about what innovation is and how it is generated (eventually leading us to conversations about specific topics like structures, metrics, and goals).
Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to interview representatives from 10 leading technology service providers about how they help their clients innovate. My recent research summarizing those interviews is available to Forrester clients on our website. For those interested in the high level points I raised, here are a few of the key findings:
During a recent set of interviews with IT service providers on how they help their client’s innovate, I had the opportunity to speak with K Ananth Krishnan, CTO at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Ananth described to me what I consider to be one most progressive innovation programs I encountered during these interviews – it was consistent with TCS’s capabilities, holistic in scope, and has the potential to be a important part of the company’s long-term evolution.
A few key findings from my discussion with Ananth:
I just took a briefing from Jive Software about their new innovation management tool, Jive Ideation. The fact that Jive is now formally dedicated to the innovation space is significant – a move that has ramifications for the broader innovation management market, and for sourcing professionals.
Forrester has been covering the innovation management market for several years, and written about it as a “unique” market. We have always, however, recognized that the distinctions between this market and other markets -- particularly the social collaboration market -- were thin.
The arrival of Jive into the ideation space shows just how thin those boundaries are. Jive has made a name for itself over the past few years as a social collaboration tool. The company differentiates on its ability to connect a wide variety of enterprise users (both internal and external), and integrate easily with a host of technologies – making it appealing to a range of business and IT buyers. Since collaboration is a critical component of innovation, its not a stretch to see how Jive’s collaboration tools can be applied to their client's innovation objectives.
In my recent interviews with IT services providers on the topic of innovation, one of the key findings was the many different ways in which innovation can be categorized. Some companies view innovation as simply an extension of their traditional R&D capabilities, others view their innovation as a way to prove their thought leadership, still others view innovation largely as a strategic marketing imperative. Sometimes, it’s a combination of these factors.
One interview that stood out was with Lem Lasher, the Chief Innovation Officer (and Global Business Services President) at CSC, who described to me a deep and holistic approach to transforming CSC’s innovation capabilities. Three things that stood out at me about Lem’s approach: