In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the so-called "front end" of innovation (meaning creativity and idea management), but much less about the "back end" of innovation--realizing the value of innovation in the market. The realization of innovation is largely concerned with what author Everett Rogers called "the diffusion of innovation," the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. There are a number of processes and technologies that provide the means to realize innovation, including supply chain management, brand management and intellectual property management. Another that has emerged in the last decade is the go-to-market process.
According to UK-based consultancy Channelsphere, "A go-to-market strategy is a game plan for reaching and serving the right customers, in the right markets, through the right channels, with the right products and services, and the right value proposition."
It's easy to understand how important a well-thought-out go-to-market plan is for realizing the value of an innovation. By their very nature, innovations can involve reaching new customers in new markets, through new channels with new products and services that depend on the communication of a new value proposition.
Channel management is a key element of any go-to-market plan and, according to Harvard Professor V. Kasturi Rangan, there are three disciplines involved in successful channel management: mapping, building and editing, and aligning and influencing. Mapping involves understanding what the key determinants of your channel strategy should be at an industry level. Building and editing implies a gap analysis of your existing channels relative to your go-to-market needs. Aligning and influencing is about gaining and retaining the partners needed to deliver and add value to your go-to-market plan.
All sorts of specialist or vertical software may be helpful to support a go-to-market plan, including product lifecycle management, marketing campaign management, partner relationship management (PRM), as well as more conventional horizontal applications such as sales force automation and customer relationship management.
Successful go-to-market plans may depend on maintaining a close and collaborative relationship with channel partners, something that Web-based portal technology is particularly suited to supporting. Channeltivity is a vendor that supplies specialized portal technology focused on PRM. Even online ERP offerings such as NetSuite contain some PRM capability focused on opportunity management, shared customer account management and partner visibility into supplier inventory levels.
Cope With Diversity
The four innovation-management-process phases do not merely imply engagement in a number of different activities, they are, in fact, supported by a range of technologies and involve many different stakeholders. The intention phase involves the strategy team and C-level participation. The generation phase could be extended to include specific departments or business units--or even the whole organization--depending on the nature of the idea generation campaign.
The development phase involves product development teams, R&D, external design and development partners and internal/external manufacturing resources with ongoing participation by the marketing team. The realization phase involves sales and marketing, which often work in conjunction with external channel and brand management partners.
There are not many business processes that involve so diverse a range of internal and external participants and also reflect the organizational hierarchy from top to bottom. This is one reason why innovation is difficult to repeat successfully and to sustain on a daily basis--especially in the face of constant organizational change.