Innovation initiatives are crucial for any company that wants to stay ahead of its competitors, but getting started can be hard.
With no clear formula out there, figuring out an effective innovation process can be overwhelming.
From identifying the right challenges to tackle, to choosing the right vendor for your company, to everything in between — organizing all of your to-dos to the point where you feel confident taking the first steps can be a daunting task all on its own.
This detailed checklist clearly lays out the five distinct stages of the innovation process, and what you need to do during each stage so you can track your progress as you go along.
1. Project Preparation and Planning
In this initial stage, the first thing you need to do is identify the challenge is your innovation opportunity.
Once you have identified the problem, the next step is garnering executive support to present the idea to the company steering committee. This first conversation may be with the CIO, CINO, CTO, COO or any other executive depending on how your company is organized.
Once you get approval from the steering committee to go forward with project planning, you can begin interviewing internal stakeholders who will be affected by the innovation initiative. This could include operations managers if it will impact workflows, IT managers who oversee product infrastructure, executives with relevant expertise, etc.
The point of these interviews is to understand their perspective and take in any helpful input.
With all the information from the interviews, it is then time to dig into the planning details. That includes an analysis of high-level needs and internal requirements, an evaluation of the existing system performance, which will all help you create a detailed project plan with project objectives.
With a detailed plan that includes project objectives and potential setbacks, you then present the full plan to the steering committee for final approval to go ahead with the work.
2. Request for Information (RFI) and Initial Demonstrations
After you have gone through all the initial steps to get project approval, you can begin letting everyone else in on your plan.
Do this by creating a project team that you will work with to carry out the various stages of the project like scouting, testing and evaluating software vendors.
Share your approved project plan with your team so that you can work together to analyze the innovation need and solidify your project requirements.
Equipped with a plan and clear requirements, you and your team can begin looking for solutions that will fill your need.
This process includes:
- Researching relevant technology fields to come up with a long list of potential vendors
- Interviewing those vendors to get a better understanding of the strength, capability and scalability of their solution, among other things
- Preparing and sending a Request for Information (RFI) to each of the vendors on the long list
- Comparing RFI responses and eliminating the irrelevant solutions
- Conducting remote software demonstrations for the solutions still on your long list
- Narrowing the list of vendors down to the few that you are most interested in based on those demonstrations
3. Request for Proposal (RFP)
Now that your list has been cut down, you can finalize and submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) to each vendor on the short list. These more complex requests will give you a better idea of what your vendor can offer, including what payment options and packages they have available.
After receiving and reviewing all of the proposal responses, you can remove additional vendors from the list if necessary, leaving you with your final short list of solutions to run proof-of-concepts (PoCs) on.
4. Proof-of-Concept Testing
With your short list of vendors ready, you can start setting the stage for proof-of-concept testing.
First, compile and send any required legal and/or risk documents to each vendor, such as NDAs, IP & Security Validations, etc.
Then, develop a detailed testing checklist and create a dedicated testing lab or environment where you will be able to run your PoCs.
The next preparation step is to collect and anonymize test data to be used during the PoC.
Now that the foundation is set for the PoC testing, you can establish and grant each of the software vendors access to the relevant APIs, the anonymized test data and the testing lab or environment.
Once this is all done, then it is time to run a proof-of-concept with each vendor on the short list individually.
5. Reference Calls, Site Visits and Software Vendor Selection
With the results of your PoCs in hand, you can consolidate all of the information you have on each vendor to see a comprehensive picture of the solution they provide.
Carry out a complete evaluate of each vendor by reviewing the RFP responses, PoC results and your overall analysis to determine which solution would be best for your company.
When you have selected the vendor that you feel will best fill your innovation needs for this project, conduct an on-site reference check for that company and, if all goes well, negotiate a contract with the relevant parties.
In parallel, notify the other software vendors that participated in PoCs of your decision.
There Is A Faster Way
While every company faces unique challenges, the overarching innovation process remains the same across sizes and industries.
This checklist lays out five clear steps to help you start your next innovation project and see it through to completion.
To learn how to shorten this process and modernize your innovation program, download our free ebook, How to Run a Proof-of-Concept in the 21st Century.