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“There's no good idea that can't be improved on.” Michael Eisner, CEO of Walt Disney Corporation 1984-2005.
Ideas come and ideas go. Some live, some die—and some need to be chased down. The trick to profiting from the good ideas is, as Eisner implied, to continually improve them. But given their intangible nature, identifying and improving upon good ideas is much easier said than done.
Idea management software—also called ideation management software—is a new collection of tools designed to help companies do just that: identify and develop the best ideas they come across, whether from customers, employees or members of the public. This Buyer’s Guide will help you understand how idea management software works and how it can help your business. It covers:
What Is Idea Management Software?
Idea management software is designed to help collect, develop and collaborate on ideas that are relevant to your business. The software helps companies categorize ideas and even open up idea submission and development to customers and other interested third parties.
It’s not always immediately obvious if a new idea is actually worth pursuing. But, few new ideas seem worthy until they’re developed at least a little. Not wanting to waste time on fruitless ideas, most companies are forced to ignore all but the most obviously great ideas. This leads to missed opportunities or, worse yet, competitors developing the same idea at a later date.
The main goal of idea management software is to prevent good ideas from going to waste. It does this by systemizing the process of idea management, so that new ideas can be vetted with less effort. This helps the company consider more of them and miss fewer opportunities.
Common Features of Idea Management Software
But despite some general similarities, idea management software is purpose-built for the workflows, processes and permission controls needed for idea submission, collaborative development and selection. It is available in many forms and different packages that will contain some or all of the following applications:
|Idea campaigns||Organize ideas by grouping them into specific campaigns and challenges. Campaigns can be open to the public, employees or select groups.|
|Idea funnels||Set up discrete stages for ideas to pass through as they progress from initial idea to final approval, helping systemize, monitor and benchmark the entire process.|
|Mind mapping||Visualize how the various elements of an idea (or several ideas) relate to one another. These are graphical tools, usually with drag-and-drop UIs.|
|Collaboration tools||Many idea management platforms come with tools that help teams work together, like document and file sharing, collective to-do lists and automated notifications.|
|Custom branding||Some idea management platforms allow for custom visual branding, so the interface can match your website and the look and feel of your brand.|
|Gamification||Make idea sharing and development part of a contest, competition or on-going game. Gamification can encourage people to help in the ideation process.|
|Customizable workflows||Rearrange and configure the various stages of the idea management process and control which users get to participate in which stages.|
Software Market Trends You Should Understand
Cloud-based software, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), is an SMB’s best friend. Compared to on-premise installations, cloud software can usually be expected to be more:
- Affordable: It typically uses a pay-as-you-go pricing model—meaning no large investment is needed to get started. Services are also easier to cancel.
- Accessible: Cloud-deployed software can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection.
- Integratable: It’s also often easier to integrate applications. Since the apps are deployed from the vendor’s servers, you won’t need to set up or maintain your own.
For these reasons, most idea management systems suitable for SMB use are cloud-based. It’s the best option for a majority of SMBs, excluding only those with very specific IT integration requirements.
Example Idea Management Workflow
Idea management software typically allows for a lot of workflow flexibility. This is helpful, even necessary, given the fact that companies have very different approaches to and requirements for idea management. That said, the idea of idea management might be entirely new to you, so below is an example of the types of stages that could be used.
- Collection. The company puts up a public-facing website with a description of the problem it’s trying to solve. The company invites its customers, employees and members of the public to submit ideas directly on the website.
- Vetting. The company’s management looks over the submitted ideas, eliminating any that are impractical or don’t sufficiently address the problem. They create a shortlist of five of the best ideas. All five ideas could work, but management is unsure which would work best.
- Voting. The company creates a new page online to present the five best ideas, each with a short explanation. Employees and customers are asked to vote for their favorite idea and add any additional comments.
- Selection. Management reviews the comments and tallies the votes, selecting two finalist ideas. Potential problems and downsides are listed for each idea. Company employees are invited to comment on the ideas, adding any potential problems and solutions of their own.
- Refinement. The company uses its idea management software to internally collaborate on, improve and implement the remaining ideas.
Your Guide to Top Idea Management Software, January 2022
Software Advice uses reviews from real software users to highlight the top-rated Idea Management Software products in North America.
Learn how products are chosen