You Should Foster More Software Innovation – But How?

Software innovation plays an increasingly vital role in your success, as software is a key part of more and more products and services, whether on the Web, a phone, a desktop PC, a car, or in your home. But how to get it? I’ve been working in the world of software development for many years, so had a few ideas of my own to start, but I also interviewed fifteen experts across a dozen organizations that excel at software innovation. These experts helped me identify the most important process, organizational, cultural, geographical, and staffing practices that promote software innovation. But this is definitely not a “one size fits all situation” – I found that which practices were most helpful and appropriate varied among different types of organizations.

I’m glad to say that the report I wrote to deliver this advice is now “live”: How To Foster Software Innovation To Exploit The Economic Recovery. It is accompanied by a tool you can download to assess your organization’s capabilities along the several dimensions of practices that help drive software innovation: Software Innovation Assessment Workbook. The tool allows you to tailor the assessment according to your organization type, with three options: Trusted Suppliers, Partner Players, and Software Vendors / Service providers.

Just to whet your appetite, here are a couple of excerpts from the report. First, our definition of software innovation:

Delivering software that transforms or improves a business process, creates or improves a market offering, or enables or improves a business model in a way that boosts value and impact for the enterprise, customers, or partners.

Next, a figure from the report that depicts the various dimensions of practices which drive software innovation, with a brief summary of some of the key practices in each area (read the report to fully explore my advice on all these areas):

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Some of the most interesting interviews were with “Web” companies like Netflix and bwin Interactive Entertainment AG:

"I believe it's necessary to listen to the voice of the customer, which begins at the customer-care department. A lot of small innovations come from your real customers. The customer support center collects ideas and channels them to the product managers." (Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications, Netflix)

"Customer feedback is essential to judge the success or failure of your innovations, which you can get immediately after rolling out new features in an eCommerce business like ours. Therefore, it's just as important to be able to rapidly roll unsuccessful experiments back as to be able to rapidly roll innovations out." (Christoph Haas, head of software development and delivery, bwin Interactive Entertainment AG)

But do you have to be a “Web” company for it to be important to listen to your customers? Of course not! It’s just that on the Web, there’s nowhere to hide – you live or die by your customers’ reaction to your innovations, and the value they deliver. The experts I interviewed came from a wide range of different organization types, also including financial services, software vendors, and system integrators.

I hope you enjoy the report, but more importantly, I hope it really helps you. Please respond to me in this blog, or by emailing me at mgilpin@forrester.com, if you’d like to continue the discussion – it’s a fun topic.

Sincerely,
Mike Gilpin