Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Web-Enabled Innovation in New Product Development: A Web of Innovation Model Will Help Your Organization to Assess Its Use of Software Tools in the NPD Process

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Web-Enabled Innovation in New Product Development: A Web of Innovation Model Will Help Your Organization to Assess Its Use of Software Tools in the NPD Process

Article excerpt

This article develops a model of the web-enablement of the innovation process that we call the "Web of Innovation." It reflects the evolution of the knowledge flow process described in an earlier RTM article (1) into a web-enabled (and then, web-driven) process. It also provides a basis for further innovation in the design of web-based tools.

Setting the Stage

The aforementioned knowledge flow process describes the stages of knowledge transactions within the innovation process (e.g., creation, communication, usage, regeneration). It represents a formalization of the process of knowledge management within the R&D environment consistent with process formalizations like Stage Gate [TM] (2), portfolio management and their sub-processes.

Three primary enablers of knowledge flow were identified in the previous RTM paper: culture, infrastructure and technology (specifically, Information Technology). Of these, culture is the most important as well as the most difficult to manage. Information Technology (IT) is perhaps the least important of the primary drivers but the easiest with which to develop commercial offerings to assist the NPD and other processes of the model.

Not surprisingly, there has been explosive growth in the range of software and web-based tools available to manage the knowledge flow process. Some aim at the management of the ideation process (3), some at the NPD process, and some at the new-product commercialization process and portfolio management. Software tools from 3DKMG, Sopheon, Gensight, IDe, Novare, Value Innovations, and others fall into this group. Other tools manage the knowledge base itself, both tacit and explicit knowledge, including intellectual property (one's own company and that of competitors).

Other developments attempt to bridge the divide between in-house innovation and that undertaken by partner organizations by offering technology synergy through a range of tools and effectively blurring the differences between the two. Tools from organizations like MicroPatent, Yet2.com, PLX, Delphion, and Invention Machine fall into this category.

Our earlier paper delivered a strong caveat: IT tools are not in themselves knowledge management, despite the marketing message from software developers that each tool is essentially equivalent to knowledge management. Why, then, focus on this particular enabler? The answer, we submit, lies in the (supposed) ability of the IT tools to enable the innovation process (i.e., improve the quality, speed to market and profitability obtained from the NPD process). Dustdar and Ruppel have more general discussions of the place of software tools in knowledge management and the knowledge flow process, especially the interplay of tools and culture (4,5).

Evaluating Software Tools

We propose that the Web of Innovation Model, explained below, mirrors the process of globalization or "metanationalization" (6). Globalization in this sense describes much more than the operations of large companies, which have long operated all over the world. In fact, Doz defines globalization as having moved from "penetrating markets around the world" to "learning from the world" (6).

It is in this spirit that we have used the model as a framework for evaluating software tools used in the innovation process, and have surveyed a number of major multinational corporations to gauge the degree of uptake, acceptance and utility of the new tools. Our results indicate a plethora of tools being considered, developed, launched, and upgraded, but also a distinct lag between the aspirations of the software companies to build in functionality and the benefits being derived by industrial customers from those tools.

Quantification of "hard" benefits (cycle time reduction and sales and earnings growth being the metrics for which quantification is most eagerly sought) remains the Achilles heel of the knowledge flow process, including our web-enabled tools. …

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