Managing innovation in the Cloud

Manufacturing & Logistics IT attended Oracle's Modern Supply Chain Experience event in London recently to find out about Oracle's views on innovation management software developments and strategies.

At Oracle's two-day Modern Supply Chain Experience event staged at the Intercontinental London – The O2 recently, professionals from the manufacturing, logistics and retail sectors were able to hear presentations and participate in roundtable discussions covering the current state of play and likely future trends regarding a number of supply chain-related topics. One of these themes was innovation management.

Vikram Singla, product innovation and supply chain apps leader, Oracle UK, commented at the event: "The end goal of most manufacturers involved in product development is to be able to come up with innovative ideas that will have a strong commercial appeal – while also being able quickly to determine those development concepts that are less likely to have a major impact on the market."

Democratising ideation

An R&D department's contribution to new ideas may be rather limited. Because of this, Singla maintains that the ideation process should be open to not only all departments within the company, but also beyond the four walls. He adds that the democratisation of ideation is critically important in order to embed a culture of innovation and to ensure fresh opportunities are identified and exploited ahead of the competition.

Fail safe, fail frugal

Many organisations are averse to any type of failure. However, Singla stresses that failure does not have to be expensive, and time spent on the ideation process can reap major rewards when the right ideas come to the fore. Neither should a sound ideation methodology result in career risk, believes Singla, who adds that the best innovators encourage innovation time among all employees; some even consider rewarding 'near-miss' ideas that had potential but didn't quite make the cut. According to Singla, the best ideation environment is one in which creative people are given the freedom to experiment and where finance staff can utilise agreed metrics in order to best ensure that a 'fail safe, fail frugal' environment strengthens the innovation culture within the organisation.

Portfolio approach

Singla's view is that innovation is not just about disruptive change. Regular breakthroughs, even if small, are important to keep the momentum and balance risk. Along with new disruptive products, line extensions to current products, functional improvements etc. are required. The ideas, related to each category, must be able to move through their lifecycle swiftly in order to home-in on the most promising ideas and ensure they receive the required level of support – both operationally and financially. Singla refers to the process of harvesting a number of ideas across different categories as the 'portfolio approach'.

Bridging the ideas and execution gap

So, how can companies put in place and manage such an efficient innovation management methodology? At the Oracle event, the point was made that many companies still rely on spreadsheets and other basic forms of data management, which is not the most integrated or effective means of optimising the product value chain, from initial inspiration through to development and launch to market.

There are, of course, many product lifecycle management (PLM) software packages available that aim to help companies to manage their product design, development, and commercialisation processes in a more integrated, 'joined-up' way. However, Oracle explains that once the process of design has begun, plenty of hard cash may have already been sunk. It is extremely important to take control of the so-called fuzzy front end and manage the translation of ideas into design concepts taking into consideration a host of factors such as financial viability and alignment with market trends. Oracle explains that failure to do so could result in an unsuccessful product that has a highly injurious effect on your bottom line.

Oracle believes what is needed to facilitate the most efficient and successful innovation methodology is an IT solution that is able to support innovation by successfully bridging the gap between innovative ideas and execution. In essence, Oracle believes companies that are serious about their R&D and product innovation regime should take their supportive innovation management IT solution just as seriously.

According to Oracle, the requirement is for a system that can help companies to invest time, money and resources in ideas that stand the best chance of success. Oracle believes in order to achieve this the system needs to be able to help ideation throughout the organisation, with customers/partners/suppliers and even regularly monitor a host of different data sources, such as social media (tweets, blogs, consumer discussion sites etc.) and Big Data repositories to identify current product trends/customer preferences etc.

Strategically, Oracle's view is that the innovation management system of choice should be able to optimise communication over the entire product development network, so that stakeholder participation and involvement is maximised and the ideas and decision-making process is optimised. As part of this process, Oracle maintains that the system should also be able to analyse the most likely financial impact before, during and after investment decisions have been made, and be able to determine the best commercialisation opportunities for the company. Oracle believes the solution of choice should be capable of managing product changes to improve time to market and to reduce the amount of necessary reworking, or even scrapping, of ideas – additionally, it should be able to maintain or accelerate the pace of innovation by proactively reusing existing parts and designs.

Global picture

Similarly, Oracle considers that the system should also be able to manage the whole design, manufacturing and supply chain process across global plants; ensuring the organisation's manufacturing and supply chain partners worldwide know its plans and are able to act and prepare accordingly. Moreover, Oracle believes the system should be able to manage all manufacturing-related changes made across plants and organisations worldwide.

As part of managing this stakeholder collaboration process during all stages of product development through to manufacture, Oracle maintains that the system should be able to securely manage data in terms of items, bills of materials (BOMs), documents and AML (anti-money laundering) controls, while also securing IP with extended control across globally outsourced design and manufacturing organisations, suppliers and partners.

Full visibility and involvement

Oracle's own Cloud-based Innovation Management solution looks at the innovation process from all angles in a fully integrated fashion. All stakeholders can be involved at every stage of the product development. Also, through having visibility of financial analysis related to each stage of product investment, joined-up decision making is made a much smoother and unified process, with no one being left out of the loop.

The Oracle solution allows organisations to manage many different product development projects within their portfolio. And since the solution is integrated with Oracle's development, project execution and commercialisation solution, the company made the point that the whole process from initial design concept right through to development and launch to market is made a lot easier.

Cloud advantage

Because the system is Cloud-based, Oracle points out that the system can be up and running considerably faster than on-premise alternatives, and can also be more easily accessed by stakeholders and partners locally or around the world as and when required. From a cost perspective, Oracle explains that the Cloud model means users do not need to commit any up-front capital expenditure to the solution; instead paying a monthly subscription fee, which also covers full support from Oracle's service team. Oracle added that the system's high level of flexibility means it can quickly be integrated within an organisation's existing suite of IT solutions; whether they be on-premise or in the Cloud.


Singla commented: "What is needed is an innovation system that is able to provide the right level of visibility in order for organisations and their stakeholders to make quick and effective product decisions, and to have the best possible view as to whether their product development and R&D regime is likely to be successful and able to deliver a good return on investment. With Oracle's product life-cycle management solutions, organisations have the means to accelerate the product decision lifecycle by clearly recognising opportunities for improvement at each stage of the process and by ensuring maximum stakeholder engagement – locally or globally – which in turn helps to optimise productivity throughout the entire product network.

He concluded: "Oracle's Innovation Management solution can bridge the gap between an organisation's innovative ideas and successful execution, which can result in a greater volume of successful new products being brought to market. In this way, the company can not only boost its profitability but also satisfy market demand for more innovative products. It's a win-win."

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