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Innovation

Rush of Ideas

Oracle’s Jon Chorley says there’s increasing pressure to innovate—your business depends on it.

by Aaron Lazenby

November 2016

To innovate smart products and services for your business, you have to be open to a wide variety of ideas, says Jon Chorley, chief sustainability officer and group vice president of supply chain management product strategy at Oracle. That includes ideas from customers, employees, and suppliers. But you also need a disciplined process that helps narrow down those ideas into the ones that will positively affect your revenue stream. Here, Chorley talks to Profit about the new innovation cycle and how Oracle Innovation Management Cloud helps customers manage their innovation funnel.

Profit: Is this a particularly critical moment for innovation?

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Chorley: The need to manage the innovation cycle has never been more intense. A typical cycle for electronic devices like cell phones may now be measured in weeks. Other markets are changing in fundamental ways that can destroy whole product lines or create new ones. At that pace, it’s very easy for competition to erode your market share.

You can no longer produce a product and expect that, unchanged, it’s going to generate revenue for multiple years. If it’s going to generate revenue at all, you have to bring it to market faster than the next guy. If you’re first to market, you make more money than if you’re second—and if you’re third, you’re going to lose.

So excellence in innovation is all about collecting the right ideas, making the right choices, and then executing faster. You have to get all three right to be successful.

Profit: So where did the idea for Oracle Innovation Management come from?

A good idea is a good idea. It doesn’t really matter where it comes from. You want to be able to capture it, evaluate it, and fold it back into your innovation process and into your product portfolio.”

Chorley: It’s a sad fact that most new product ideas fail. It takes hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas to generate a successful product. Yet in most companies, the process is managed by emails, spreadsheets, and slide decks. Solving this in the right way is what Oracle Innovation Management is all about.

There has long been a discipline known as product lifecycle management [PLM]. PLM solutions were supposed to provide a holistic view, but in reality, they mostly focused on one segment of the lifecycle: the design and engineering phase.

Oracle has always had a broader view of PLM, seeing it as an interaction with the supply chain, procurement and downstream processes. We recognized the gap at the front end of the product lifecycle, the ideation phase, which is where product managers and company leaders think about what product ideas to fund. There was really no great solution that combined flexibility and ease of use with the right level of control—and connected into traditional PLM and downstream processes.

By the way, this applies not just to industries you typically associate with PLM such as industrial, high tech, and consumer goods. This applies equally well to industries such as financial services that have equally complex product innovation and development challenges.

Profit: How does Oracle’s product help companies innovate more quickly?

Chorley: For one, by helping customers create from their existing product portfolios. There are some products that are truly iconoclastic, but many have elements leveraged from existing product lines. Oracle Innovation Management helps assemble conceptual designs from new ideas combined with existing components, and then drive that into the market far more quickly.

Also, most products are not designed and built by one company. A good idea is a good idea. It doesn’t really matter where it comes from. You want to be able to capture it, evaluate it, and fold it back into your innovation process and into your product portfolio. The challenge is selecting the right ones to invest in. Oracle Innovation Management helps businesses collaborate more effectively in this early stage.

Finally, it makes the process transparent, auditable, and more objective. You don’t get to the end of a cycle and wonder why you built [or didn’t build] that feature, or whether the features you built are meeting your goals and requirements. This ability to have requirement traceability is a legal necessity in some regulated industries, but in reality should be a best practice in all.

Profit: Are business leaders surprised that innovation can be managed as a business process?

Chorley: Supported might be a better word than managed. Oracle wants to provide an infrastructure that lets the best ideas come to the surface. So the product supports an innovation funnel that lets product managers reach out to a broad set of communities—customers, internal, market-driven, all sorts of different sources—and capture those ideas, evaluate them, refine them, select them, and make decisions about the level of investment.

Given that there’s a great deal of money and often the future of the company at stake, having a system such as Oracle Innovation Management to improve your “return on innovation spend” should be a high priority for every product company.

Photography by Shutterstock