Startups push apps for tracking corporate ideas

Bright Idea, one of several small vendors offering software for managing corporate innovations, this week will introduce a hosted service designed to help users collect and prioritize new ideas and then track their development.

The Web-based service is aimed at midsize companies and divisions of larger organizations that are looking to source ideas from wider groups of employees than they usually rely on, said Matthew Greeley, president of New York-based Bright Idea. Companies could use the service in product development or as part of business process improvements and cost-cutting activities, he added.

In concept, innovation management tools like the ones developed by Bright Idea are similar to product life-cycle management (PLM) applications in that they give companies a central repository for gathering and managing new ideas, said Navi Radjou, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Radjou noted that the software provides workflow and analytics capabilities for identifying, categorizing and ranking good ideas and routing them to the right people. "In a sense, PLM takes over where idea management leaves off," he said, predicting that some some of the companies in the market may eventually be bought by PLM vendors.

Robert Bosch Tool, a maker of power tools, is using Bright Idea's innovation management suite to consolidate ideas from across its different product groups. The company recently conducted a two-week campaign soliciting ideas from all of its employees on how to improve one of its products, said Peter Neumann, Bosch's innovation manager.

Bright Idea's software allowed employees to submit their ideas to a central database, where 143 responses were vetted by marketing and engineering teams and assigned ranks based on how good the ideas were. "Some of the top ideas were integrated into the marketing wish list for the next generation of the product," Neumann said.

"Idea and innovation management software tools can have a fairly high impact," said Jonathan Spira, CEO of Basex, a New York-based consulting firm.

"They have not yet been widely adopted simply because they are not yet widely known."

Almost all of the vendors selling such tools are small, Radjou said. Bright Idea -- which until recently was called General Ideas -- is a 15-person firm, but it counts Bosch, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Honeywell International and Hallmark Cards among its clients. Boston-based Imaginatik and California-based Akiva sell similar software as well.

Bright Idea already offers packaged software that starts at US$65,000 for a server license and an additional US$60,000 for integration and customization. The hosted service starts at a monthly fee of US$49 per user, Greeley said.

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