More Value for the Front End of Innovation – CogniStreamer

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I had the chance to talk with … CogniStreamer about their innovation portal as a part of some front end of innovation (FEI) research I did in preparation for Aberdeen’s Leadership in Product Development Summit. Cognistreamer is one of a number of vendors that I believe can play a role in helping manufacturers leverage social computing technologies for innovation. I am still formulating my views on the rapidly evolving landscape of software for product innovation, I hope you find my perspective useful (and I look forward to hearing yours).

What do they Do? (OK, this is really more on “Idea Management,” skip ahead for what Cognistreamer does)

Cognistreamer is one of a number of vendors I have looked into that fall into the “idea management” space. I was talking with a friend today about the need for a framework to represent idea and innovation-oriented software. It seems to me that I should start segmenting the space into different categories such as: Ideation, Incentives/Rewards Management, Scoring/Filtering, Concept Collaboration, and Business Case Development (which would then tie into Product Portfolio Management (PPM) and Value Management). Of course then I would have to add in segments for IP Management and Innovation Process Management. No matter how I segment it, I am sure there will be dissenting views (please share yours if you have one, I am open to ideas). See more of my views on idea management software in my post on software vendor Brightidea. OK, it seems like I can’t start a post on this topic without a diatribe, thanks for bearing with me.

What do they Do (post diatribe)?

So back to the point. Cognistreamer does not call themselves idea management, but instead offers “innovation through collaboration.” The solution is designed to harness and mature collaborative ideas. In my conversation with Ron Shulkin, VP North America, it was clear that they understand the issue that manufacturers don’t just need more ideas – they need to get to the better ideas quickly. Cognistreamer provides the ability to start with challenges that offer strategic guidance to innovation efforts. The guidance helps companies focus innovation effort on specific topics (if desired) through challenges. Then, they leverage social computing technologies to “collaboratively filter” ideas through algorithmic social science that scores ideas based on a combination of votes and participation to allow the good ideas to move to the top.

Beyond the idea stage, Cognistreamer progresses ideas through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis and further to a feasibility study. In this way, ideas can be advanced and promoted from step to step in the innovation lifecycle. What’s interesting is that Cognistreamer bases these promotions on the social scoring algorithm, again to allow the best ideas to move forward. The process steps and the scoring mechanisms are user-defined and can change based on campaign, a very unique approach. Throughout the innovation process, Cognistreamer employs expert reviews and collaborative assessments – an interesting use of social computing that leverages the community to help mature the idea into a concept that is ready to be reviewed in a portfolio.

What do they Offer?

The Cognistreamer product is the Cognistreamer Innovation Portal. The solution offers some interesting features including tag clouds, similarity search, and collaborative filtering based on votes, participation, and activity. The solution also provides the ability to follow ideas, and receive alerts for new activity and comments. The portal is integrated with e-mail so that users can interact with the system in their own environment. This also allows remote use, providing links to smaller web pages that can be viewed and acted on effectively using a smart phone. Some other unique features pointed out by the Cognistreamer team include “persuasive design” features that engage portal visitors on the most important topics and support for deployment in multiple languages. There is also a module called “Listener” that polls the web (including social media sites like Facebook and Twitter) for key words and automatically brings related information in as new ideas. Pretty interesting approach, and one I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Who do they Work With?

Ron explains that the solution can be used in many industries, but that about 75% are international manufacturers. Cytec Industries (specialty chemicals and engineered materials) and Case New Holland (agriculture and construction equipment) are listed on the website. Additionally the company says that Bakeart (metals and materials) has over 40,000 users, in addition to other manufacturers like Vestas (wind power). Cognistreamer is a Belgian company, and has mostly a European customer base.  The company is focused on the US market, however, and has six pilots started in the US this year.

So that’s what I hear from Cognistreamer, I hope you found it useful. What do you think? What else should I have asked them? I have talked with others about this as well, including Brightidea and a view into the idea management application Colgate partnered on with SAP. This is a very fragmented market, who else should I talk to in this space? I found this article that Ron wrote (before he joined Cognistreamer) that ambitiously set out to list every innovation, collaboration, idea management, and content management (CMS) on the market. Who are the key players in this type of software? Who else is interested in this space?