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The Back End of Innovation

Innovation has both a front-end and a back-end.


Ventana Research believes that much of the focus on the innovation process has been on the middle phase, which we call “converting innovation.” Increasingly, focus is being placed on the “front end” of innovation, which we call “generating innovation.” However, we should not forget that the innovation process also has a “back end,” which we call “realizing innovation.” A holistic view of the innovation process must recognize that the innovation process has both a front and back end.

The innovation management process, and the technology used to support it, has largely been focused on the middle or converting innovation phase -- the phase comprising the activities of ideation and deliverable development, supported primarily by idea management and product lifecycle management (PLM) technology. But the converting innovation phase must be viewed in a holistic context: It is supported by both the front end generating innovation phase and the back end realizing innovation phase.

The generating innovation phase comprises the complimentary activities of vigilance and creativity that are used to generate the idea assets that feed into the converting innovation phase. Vigilance is a reactive activity for generating ideas from external environmental scanning and internal feedback analysis, whereas creativity is a proactive activity of generating ideas from individual, team, or whole system activities, such as brainstorming, appreciative inquiry, and open space for example. While many larger companies already have a great deal of technology supporting front end innovation in place, they may not be fully leveraging this technology for innovation purposes in particular.

The realizing innovation phase recognizes one of the key characteristics of innovation in a business context – the need for innovation to realize value in the marketplace. Realizing innovation relies on back end activities and technology such as intellectual property (IP) management and brand/product management. Without a sustained effort to create and leverage IP and brands, much innovation – especially radical and disruptive innovations designed to create new markets or undermine the status quo of existing markets – will not realize its full value in the marketplace.

Ventana Research backs a greater focus on the front end of innovation,n but sees this front end as only one part of a holistic view of the innovation business process that includes both front and back end activities. Shifting the focal point to the front end of innovation simply creates a vacuum elsewhere in the process, most likely in terms of the back end of innovation. Without a holistic approach to each phase of the process, innovation will continue to be subject to the kinds of unbalanced efforts that prove detrimental to optimizing innovation performance management (IPM).

Stewart McKie is European Analyst Director at Ventana Research.

Ventana Research is the preeminent research and advisory services firm helping our clients maximize stakeholder value with Performance Management throughout their organizations. Putting research in a business and IT context we provide insight and education on the best practices, methodologies and technologies that enable our clients to leverage assets to understand, optimize, and align strategies and processes to meet their goals and objectives.

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