By: Anthony Ferrier
Over the past couple of years, the services and solutions offered by innovation vendors have quietly shifted in new and interesting ways, with direct implications for corporate innovation leaders. Given that it is the middle of a long hot summer, I thought that it might be timely to outline some of the changes that I see taking place, and their impact on innovation leaders going forward.
Please do note that this is a highly personal perspective, and you can take what I offer with a grain of salt. I am writing this as personal observation, and this is not about any one or even two companies evolutions but rather that of the market itself.
Platforms doubling down on software
In the last few weeks a number of innovation software vendors have made some significant organizational changes in headcount (generally not publically announced) that indicate a doubling down on their software products, often at the expense of their service offerings. In the past some vendors felt that services were critical to drive and augment software sales, but this approach seems to be losing steam, and many vendors are downscaling their focus on services. The reasons for this may vary, including a need to appease investors, a more competitive market, a push to more scalable solutions and more simplified product interfaces.
Big consulting firms getting serious
Over the past couple of years the bigger players of the consulting world have been making tentative steps into the innovation space. Over the past 6-12 months a number of them are finally getting their act together with new services, methodologies and client outreach. They are using innovation primarily as an entry point into the C-suite, with a goal of leveraging those relationships to pull in their other more traditional consulting services. The boutique consulting firms who have long controlled this space are going through significant organizational changes themselves (much like the software platforms). The end client result is a more competitive marketplace, with better service level and a more sophisticated approach, often at a cheaper price.
Focus on culture continues to grow
My colleagues and I have noted in the past (read here) that there is much more talk from corporate innovation leaders at conferences around the need to address cultural issues. This trend continues to grow and develop as programs move beyond running individual, disconnected activities, to building more cohesive innovation ecosystems that seek to drive business value over the longer term. This is a very welcome sign to the space and is very much being lead by clients, rather than many of the existing consulting vendors in the space (see above). There is still plenty of opportunity for consulting vendors to focus on the development of longer-term cultural change drivers within an organization, which is a relatively untapped market at this time.
Changing crowdsourcing approaches
To date, the focus of innovation crowdsourcing has been on using a crowd to generate and help identify new ideas. As most vendors see it, that is the end of their involvement (they won’t say that, but it’s generally the case). A growing number of organizations are realizing the importance of utilizing those crowdsourcing approaches in a deeper way, where they train employees in innovation skills to help develop ideas beyond a 2-line submission in a challenge and votes that move it up or down. Historically this space has had a limited number of vendors (full disclosure, my company Culturevate operates in this space), but in the evolution of the market, we see more vendors entering with a range of training and engagement offerings.
The innovation conference space is being flooded with rash of new competitors, judging by the amount of invitations that I get every week. To date, the events have been split into two distinct areas. There are the broad events, such as FEI, Chief Innovation Officer and The Economist Innovation Forum, which are developed and owned by professional event producers. Then on the other side, you have events put on by vendors essentially to promote their product or services (they will say that is not the case, but it is). More niche events are appearing, that are tighter in scope, more interactive in nature and often with an experiential focus. It remains to be seen how these events will impact the broader space, but to me they represent a shift towards a more sophisticated audience, a more competitive marketplace, and possibly more value for participants.
These are just some samples of emerging trends in the innovation space right now, with a focus on vendors. Let me know if you have any comments on what I have outlined above?
About the Author
Anthony is the CEO of Culturevate, an organization that empowers a company’s employees to execute ideas and inspire a culture of innovation, through employee networks, a resource portal and training programs (developed in association with Professor Chris Labash from Carnegie Mellon University). Anthony is a widely read author, speaker and advisor to industry leaders at organizations such as Pfizer, U.S. Postal Service, Johnson & Johnson, ADP and Fidelity. He previously led the BNY Mellon innovation program and has a Masters of Commerce (University of Sydney) and Bachelor of Economics (University of Newcastle).
Photo: Supplier sign from Shutterstock.com