As a small company or startup, ideas flow naturally. If you have a good idea, it’s easy to talk to the right people. But as organisations become larger and more complex, this becomes much harder. Size, geographical, departmental or functional silos make knowing who the best person is to evaluate or implement an idea difficult. Idea management software can scale a company’s ability to keep a steady flow of good ideas from all employees.

Idea Management Software

Idea management software helps an organisation solicit a large number of ideas from employees, share those ideas for discussion, evaluate the ideas and provide transparency on how ideas are progressing.

Employee suggestion systems is another term that often gets used. I think there is a lot of overlap with idea management software and suggestion systems. The only difference is that suggestions take on a much broader context and could encompass many forms of feedback. An idea management platform would be more specific and targetted, but the mechanism and processes are very similar.

List of Idea Management Software Providers

Capterra (owned by Gartner) keeps a relatively comprehensive list of idea management software providers that includes an overview, some customer feedback, links to the various vendor sites, etc. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that this is as much a service for vendors as it is for customers in the market for idea management software. Vendors are allowed to edit their profiles and bid for their position within the ranking, so do not take ranking and information as unbiased. However, it is a great place to come up with a long list of vendors to consider.

Key Components of Idea Management Software

The paper “Motivating creativity through a computer-mediated employee suggesti...” is the only unbiased, academic review of what should be included in idea management software that I’ve been able to find to date. If you are in the market for idea management software, I recommend taking the time to read the full article.

Much of what’s written are things we've experienced with our customers. There is one additional consideration that I think is important. Often our customers are looking at one of two general approaches to collecting employee ideas.

The first is an open-ended. It’s an always-on interface for employees to submit ideas as they come to mind. There is minimal framing to the types of ideas that can be submitted. This is basically a modernized employee suggestion box with some direction provided on what type of ideas employees should submit.

The second is a request for ideas on a particular challenge within a specific timeframe. This is basically brainstorming. Idea management software vendors often refer to this as an idea challenge.

So in addition to considering the requirements above for idea management software, it’s also work looking more broadly at what are the key success factors for open-ended and idea challenge approaches to gathering employee ideas.

Employee Suggestion System Best Practices

There is a lot more research that’s available on employee suggestion systems than there is specifically on software. We reviewed over 20 academic articles to create our research review of Employee Suggestion System Best Practices. As a quick overview, below are 10 factors we highlighted as being critical to a successful employee suggestion system. Therefore, also consider how the idea management software will help in each of these areas.

Employee Suggestion System Success Factors

Brainstorming Best Practices

Similarly, there’s a fair bit of research on brainstorming (or idea challenge) best practices. We reviewed and summarized these best practices in our Brainstorming Best Practices Guide.  The most important takeaway from the guide is that there are definite risks to brainstorming if it’s not managed properly. Brainstorming can actually lead to fewer, less creative ideas if it’s not done properly. For brainstorming to work well, people need time on their own to come up with ideas before engaging in discussion.

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