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What is Idea Management?

Every great product is built on great ideas. From the iPod to Gmail, none of the world’s game-changing products would have been created had there not been a quality ideation process within companies like Apple and Google. But often the problem is not coming up with ideas but managing them. There are so many different sources of ideas – idea portals, upper management requests, feature commitments, sales and support team conversations, analytical tools etc – that if they are not managed properly you can miss out on the best ones and end up implementing the wrong ones.

This is where Idea Management comes in. It is the process of collecting, collating and analyzing the product ideas that you have gathered from different people and systems. Over the past few years product managers have increasingly begun using a product management platform like Craft to manage their ideas. The Craft Idea Portal is a particularly powerful tool as it allows you to collect, categorize and label ideas and then connect the best ones to features in your backlog.

What are Ideas?

In the world of Product Management, ideas are usually suggestions for how the product can be improved or changed. The reason a product manager should be interested in ideas is that the best ones can actually impact your product and be transformed into shippable features.It isn’t that the users, management or whoever else is contributing ideas is doing your work for you. As a product manager it is your responsibility to monitor the market and become a product expert so you can come up with your own feature ideas.

But still, there is little point spending many days or weeks developing a feature that you think might be useful if it is not desired by the users. Ideas that come directly from users can sometimes turn out to be the best.

Idea Management vs Innovation Management

So what’s the difference between idea management and innovation management. Well, innovation management is the bigger picture, the process of taking an idea and turning it into reality – a feature or product that users can actually use. Idea management is therefore an element within the process of innovation management. It is the part where you collect the ideas and manage them so they can then be used as part of the innovation process.

Why is idea management important?

The main reason that idea management is so important is prioritization. However big your company is, even if you have massive R & D departments and numerous QA engineers, you’ll still have limited resources. On top of that, the capacity you have as a product manager to create user stories and requirements documents is also obviously quit limited.

Therefore, the percentage of ideas that you can turn into real features is inevitably very low. Considering this, it is essential to be able to manage your ideation process and systems in order to make sure you are focusing on the right ideas and not skipping over the ideas that could help you achieve the goals you set in your product roadmap.

Idea management strategy

The idea management strategy you implement will have a significant impact on your product. You need to decide what you actually want to get out of the idea management process – align it with the goals and initiatives you’ve listed in the roadmap. For example, if one of your main goals is to improve customer communication, then you should look for ideas that connect to that goal.

Idea management processes

So how do you go about managing your ideas? The likelihood is that the product manager is unlikely to be on the front line of the idea management process. You need to assign responsibilities to other team members such as the product marketing manager who will manage and review the portal on a regular basis.

This person should go through the ideas that have been submitted and add any other ideas that have been collected from customer feedback surveys, conversations with customers and other sources. They should then label and prioritize each idea so the product manager can easily view the most relevant and interesting ideas at a glance.

Centralized Idea Management vs Decentralized Idea Management

The decision about whether to use a centralized or decentralized idea management strategy and process should come from the top, made by a manager such as the head of product. A centralized process is where the ideas for all products are management in one system and process. A decentralized process, meanwhile, allows for each product manager to be responsible for the idea management for their product.

In a smaller company a centralized idea management process can work fine, as the volume of ideas is likely to be relatively low. In larger companies a decentralized system is usually preferable to avoid an overload of the system – too many ideas in one place can prove unmanageable. However, this is also a strategic decision. Centralizing the process allows the head of product to get a clearer overall view of the ideas and how they fit into the overarching product team goals. It is therefore important for the managers to set the strategy in advance to ensure it works smoothly.

Idea Management Measurement

How do you measure your idea management process and strategy? Essentially it is always important to check how successful it is so far – is it working? As with all business process, you’ll need to decide on the KPIs to use when measuring the success of your idea management.

For example you can check how many ideas you have received each day or week, and whether there has been an increase in activity over the previous period. You can also check how many individuals are submitting ideas and how many per user. Another KPI is to check the quality of ideas. If you have managed to ensure each idea is given a quality score then you can easily see the percentage of ideas that are good quality

Finally you should always check the bottom line – how many ideas have turned into features. While ideas are nice, the bottom line is the creation of new features or changes to the product. If the ideas you are receiving have had such an impact on your product then there is no doubt of the success of your idea management strategy.

Try Craft Now – get a Free Trial

Craft’s Product Management Platform includes an integrated Idea Portal, designed to help product managers plan their features and make better product decisions. Try it out right now with a 14-day free trial or book a personal live demo with one of our product experts.