The Front-End of Innovation is About Execution, Not Ideas

March 23, 2016 Clinton Bonner

by @ClintonBon

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” - Author, Sue Grafton


Ideas — we love them at Topcoder! We use Salesforce Ideas (combined with Slack) as our main internal platform to internally crowdsource and upvote the top ideas. It’s an easy way to boost employee engagement and, of course, it’s a great way to bring ideas that may not have a traditional path to maturity to the surface. Many enterprises use some form of an ideation platform, such as Mindjet or Brightidea, and these are useful tools that help widen the very top of a traditional innovation funnel. P&G brought their Swiffer line to market after crowdsourcing the idea externally. So, there’s gold in them hills, but gold needs to be mined for, and ideas need to be executed on. We recently shared this article and infographic explaining how 17 teams sprinted through the front-end of digital innovation by using our crowdsourcing solution to bring new solar energy solutions to market. The result: 17 teams went from the business idea stage to a digital prototype or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in just 60 days. So what stops your organization from being this nimble and executing this quickly?

4 Traditional Barriers that Stop You From Executing on Innovative Ideas

  1. Bandwidth — Your team is already busy. Often, they may be focused on product delivery that is far down the software development life cycle and they simply don’t have time to spend at the front-end (where new ideas need to move, or face dying on the vine).
  2. Capacity — New ideas, especially in digital innovation, can require new skill sets. Maybe you’re looking to bring a cool wearable concept forward but lack UX-focused designers that understand design for the new, small screen. Maybe your solution should be prototyped in Swift (Apple’s new programming language) but you don’t have any internal coders who know it. Capacity constraint is a ruthless killer of innovation.
  3. Your current process — Countless organizations spend weeks and weeks buried in requirements gathering. This eats budget and time, and ultimately swallows innovative ideas whole as they never truly begin, because your process slows the front-end of execution to a crawl. Momentum wanes, and the idea is abandoned.
  4. Someone told you you can’t prove the ROI — The front-end of innovation has been described as “fuzzy,” but it’s not. What’s your ROI when you beat your competitor to market by months? How about when you create a new software application that allows you to monetize in an industry your company has never played in? The ROI on front-end innovation is very real. You just need a measured way to execute on the ideas.

How Crowdsourcing Shepherds You from Ideas into Execution

The front-end of digital innovation can be described as the period between idea conceptualization through to the point at which you have a clickable prototype. Once you move to production, coding, and testing, you have left the front-end. Certain tasks must be accomplished in the front-end of digital execution, including:

  • Design Concepts — Visualizations of what the application or solution could look like.
  • Wireframes — The skeleton of the application, determining the user click-through path.
  • Prototypes — Clickable demos for mobile, tablet, and desktop, which allows you to move the idea from paper to a device.

Accessing the Topcoder community of over 900,000 designers, developers and data scientists helps eliminate traditional bandwidth and capacity issues. And if you’re routinely stuck in long requirements gathering cycles, I suggest you instead begin the process of innovation execution by running a design challenge. It’s fast and helps you visualize the possibilities for your application. Finally, if someone is still telling you that’s it’s impossible to prove ROI in the front-end of innovation, go prove them wrong. We’re certain you and your team have a backlog of ideas sitting in your pipeline, but it’s how you execute on them that will separate you from the rest.


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