Last week Inmagic introduced IdeaNet, a B2B focused ideation and innovation management platform. I spoke with Phillip Green, Inmagic’s chief technology officer about how the company has approached B2B collaboration and how its clients integrate innovation into customer interactions. I came away from the conversation with a new appreciation for keeping things simple, especially in a customer-company innovation relationship. Even IdeaNet’s goal is simple: “Enhance dialogue between internal staff and customers to ensure that you build what customers (value) will pay for.”
Clarity is key when you reach beyond your company’s walls to ask for ideas. Customers don’t take part in your enterprise training and so any technology needs to move to the background and allow customers to easily add their ideas and feel that they provide and gain value as a result. IdeaNet supports this through a tool that keeps people on the homepage, and doesn’t require a lot of clicks or any deep understanding of the process.
But IdeaNet’s not just about ideas; Inmagic’s clients are looking for dialogue with their customers. Green paraphrased innovation expert Kimberly Watson-Hemphill to note that the voice of the customer comes from listening, while the heart of the customer comes from dialogue. IdeaNet goes from idea to dialogue by providing customers and product managers with a clean, no “gunk” environment for their conversations. The application helps to make customers comfortable with offering new ideas and enhancements, but also offers easily understood discussions spaces, and the ability to vote. From the product manager perspective it is easy to find, moderate, organize, and analyze the submitted ideas — and includes the ability to add weighted voting behind the scenes. There is automatic avoidance of idea duplication, though even this task begins a dialogue to be sure the customer is being understood (a product manager can refine an idea to highlight differentiating nuances in a customer’s idea, but the original post, and any revisions, are kept in a wiki-like form in case the history becomes valuable.)
Inmagic also serves as an adviser as clients think about how to deploy IdeaNet. For clients with innovation management experience who are moving from prior systems that didn’t quite meet their needs, Inmagic is able to offer a system with search and management features focused on B2B dialogue. For clients new to innovation management, or perhaps moving from old style “request for enhancement” systems (which are basically electronic suggestion boxes), Inmagic can suggest ways of interaction that are likely to capture good ideas from customers while also creating customer community. Inmagic can also advise on organizational workflows to support product management and help the client set the permissions and views to match that workflow.
I think the combination of the application’s features and the power of customization to match particular workflows and communities is sure to make IdeaNet a player in the growing innovation management ecosystem.