Posted by Tom Grant on July 7, 2010
As organizations improve their requirements practices, and as the requirements tool vendors adapt in response, the front end of the requirements process is getting a disproportionate amount of attention. Many requirements defects start early, with the information that you feed into the requirements-generating machine. For example, if you don't have a clue how criminal investigators work, you're going to make basic mistakes in feature prioritization and design when you build a case management system for them.
And it's not just the information that has fallen under suspicion. A lot of people are equally worried about the other raw material, ideas, that you feed into this machinery. Here are a few commonly cited concerns:
- Missed opportunities. Customers, partners, and even people in our own organization have great ideas that we're not hearing.
- Miscommunication. People with good ideas don't always make themselves clear, and even if they do, we might misunderstand them.
- Misconception. We don't have reliable ways to measure the relative value of ideas that we might pursue, for both ourselves and for our customers.
- Missteps. It takes too long to collect, analyze, and communicate ideas.
- Misanthropy. We don't like listening to other people. Perhaps it's because we're so brilliant that we don't need to.
Innovation management vendors exist to help with these problems. Aside from the small, specialty vendors focused primarily on innovation, such as Spigit, Imaginatik, and Brightidea, other vendors big and small – Jive, IBM, PTC, and salesforce.com, to name but a few – have added innovation management, or innovation-ish products and services, to their existing portfolios.
On the surface, there appears to be a big market for innovation vendors. Many organizations have departments dedicated to innovation, and the title "chief innovation officer" doesn't sound as novel as it did just a few years ago. Technology vendors believe that innovation powers their business, so in theory, there's a huge market for innovation assistance in that sector alone.
And yet, the innovation management vendors have yet to capitalize on this seemingly vast opportunity. Among a wealth of possible explanations (for example, are organizations really as willing to dive headfirst into the deep end of the innovation pool as they claim?), our research into the requirements market provides one definite answer: Ideation, which has been the emphasis of the innovation management market, is only the first step of the innovation process. Ideas have no value unless you're able to act upon them.
Which is why, for the sake of our overview of the requirements market, we decided to include innovation management vendors. Potentially, they can make valuable contributions to the early phases of the requirements process, where teams are collecting both ideas (what to build) and information (for whom, in what form, and for whose benefit). The teams that might use these tools already understand this use case, since they have to identify good ideas and swiftly act upon them. It's all one process to them, even if that's not how innovation vendors or requirements vendors have seen things.
Ideas feed into other processes than requirements, but innovation vendors have to connect their products and services to something. Ideation on its own is just a form of what early social scientists called sterile excitation, "romanticism of the intellectually interesting, running into emptiness devoid of all sense of objective responsibility."