Tracking innovation programs successfully

How does one track innovation programs?
Photo by CC user hamptonroadspartnership on Flickr

Few would disagree that innovation programs have become much more prominent amongst businesses over recent years. More and more companies are starting to understand the importance of these – and just how they can provide them with a competitive edge over rivals.

Unfortunately, it’s not always plain sailing. Innovation programs tend to be very hard to track and prove to those that matter that they add value. It’s one of the reasons why so many innovation management platforms have become available recently, which aid with the overall process.

While each company will be different with their take towards innovation management, and how exactly they track the results, there are some basic principles that should be kept in mind. These allow all programs to be tracked and provide at least some ammunition to show that a program is working.

Innovation management isn’t always related to the finances

Firstly, it’s worth identifying that innovation isn’t necessarily always linked to hard facts and figures.

Some of the most successful programs around might not have the dollars to back up their success, particularly when things are starting up.

It might be the case that one idea has boosted customer satisfaction significantly – which is something which can’t realistically be measured over a short period of time.

In other words, don’t be afraid to label non-financial goals. It might be harder to convince those above you, but it might also yield stronger results in the future.

Timelines should always be set

This is something that might be more difficult depending on the type of innovation you are involved in. However, if possible, timelines need to be set whenever a program like this is orchestrated.

Particularly when the program is very young, when some in the business might not have much faith in it, it can be an idea to opt for smaller innovations which yield quicker results. If you can put a timeline on these, it goes without saying that things suddenly become much easier to track. Additionally, ROI’s can quickly be determined – which is the cornerstone of a lot of innovation programs.

Expectations should always be defined

Finally, a business should always define expectations before embarking on an innovation management program. Suffice to say, this can open up a lot of other issues, such as the type of innovation that a company is planning to invest in. For example, if they are merely performing basic research, this is a form of innovation which doesn’t really have a definition as nobody knows the end result.

Instead, expectations can be set with other forms of innovation. In the case of sustaining innovation, it stands to reason that the end result is when the problem is solved.

A point should also be made about the expectations themselves. In other words, there has to be value to the expectations that are set. Solving some problems might not result in any value whatsoever being provided to a company – and this is where strategic expectation setting is so important.