CIOs consistently tell us that they want to exploit new technologies to drive innovation in the business. While many CIOs have groups chartered with R&D or new technology research, and most organizations have defined processes to “commercialize” those technology innovations that appear promising in their pilots, the middle period – between ideation and commercialization – is one with fewer management models and methods. During this time, there may be good ideas funded for prototyping, a number of projects funded for further study, and a number of prototypes waiting for the time to be ripe for commercialization.

So, how do we manage these mid-stage ideas and prototypes? Here are some ideas we’ve seen work that you might be able to use in your organization:

  • Track the prototypes. Just because an innovation process may be outside of the standard governance and management structure, it doesn’t mean we can’t share the same tools. Register your “innovation” projects in the same database as other projects. Link them all to a single “innovation” program to keep it easy to manage this group as a whole – and segregate them from your ongoing application or improvement initiatives and new project implementations.
  • Give someone overall responsibility for the innovation portfolio. If dispersed, initiatives can be “lost.” Centralized oversight of the portfolio will give it visibility.
  • Market what you’re working on, and what you’ve learned. Even though your R&D and prototypes may not be complete, you want to make sure that duplicative efforts don’t start springing up in different parts of the organization. You won’t want to stifle thinking that may broaden the use of an innovation. Rather, you want to have the group exploring a new technology or new use for an existing technology to be able to leverage the thinking of many groups and avoid duplicative, stove-piped efforts.
  • Value and communicate your efforts. An organization that conducts basic research might obtain patents for the results of their efforts. These patents have value – regardless of whether the idea has been commercialized. Think about your technology-enabled innovation prototypes as the product of your internal BT R&D departments. Whether or not you obtain a patent for your efforts, the knowledge gained through this research adds value to your company. You can now act faster, deliver with lower risk, and more quickly commercialize an idea as a result of having performed the groundwork already. Show the value of your innovation efforts by monetizing this value.

I’ll be writing more about managing the innovation portfolio in an upcoming report and would love to hear how you manage your innovation portfolio here. We’ll also be discussing this and other topics around the CIO’s role in business innovation at the CIO Forum (#CIOF12) in Las Vegas on May 3-4 or CIO Forum EMEA (#CIOE12) in Paris, France on June 19-20. You’ll learn how we can help you build a sustainable innovation process to keep your organization moving ahead in the face of increasing competition and market demands.