What are IRI members talking about? These questions were recently posed on
Q: How do you show the value of R&D?
In order to justify (and defend) the in- vestments in R&D, the R&D function has to demonstrate its value (delivered in the previous period, that will be de- livered in the coming period). What business value indicators or analysis are you using in order to support the R&D budget and make it validated by the business?
Innovation and BI Director, Technology Rio Tinto Alcan
There are a couple of ways of doing this. First, you should have some bench- mark of technology spend as a per- centage of revenue, which will give you an idea of what your industry is spending (i.e., your competitors), and this can be used as a guideline. At
VP Enterprise Engineering Baker Hughes
I have used % sales from new products with a systematic definition of what "new" really means. I'd have to look at your business, but at first blush I sus- pect you could trace the economic im- pact of a combination of new product introductions and new process innova- tions that avoid cost or that improve revenue, services, and/or quality. One other thing: IRI has the Technology Value Pyramid, which consists of a col- lection of metrics intended to help you and others answer this question on an ongoing basis.
Q: What search tools do you use for fundamental technology scouting?
We are looking to invest in search tools to aid our fundamental technology scouting, landscaping, and research ac- tivities. Specifically, can anyone recom- mend or comment on their experiences with semantic search tools like Goldfire, illumin8, etc.? Any and all pros, cons, or experiences are of interest.
To support our technology landscaping and monitoring service lines as well as our internal competitive intelligence needs, we evaluated a few semantic search tools in the last couple of years. The first issue we grappled with was that useful information comes in many different forms (print, web, other me- dia, public and private databases, news articles, web postings, blogs, forums, etc.). So it's important to consider where you want to look for information, the format the information is in, and the degree of automation desired, to deter- mine the best tool to do the job.
Since our needs are primarily for current and emerging information on science and technology, and not histori- cal records, we found that tools capable of broadly scanning the open web are most useful for us. We especially wanted help to efficiently gather and compile relevant information, and were open to tools that enabled assessment and report- ing. For these uses, we evaluated Elsevi- er' s
We chose Digimind as the best op- tion for us to gather, compile (both manually and automatically), and re- port information from the open web. It has taken us some time to understand how to use it, but it allows us quite a bit of flexibility in terms of tracking new information using specific queries (from specific sources if desired, or from the open web), viewing information on user-defined dashboards, saving infor- mation to user-defined project folders, visualizing instances of information, and reporting and sharing information with others. But while the automated features are helpful to us, we find that we still need to apply human "quality control" to make the best use of the mass of information that comes in.
Digimind is just one of the tools we use and we' re always investigat- ing others on the market. I suggest tak- ing a look at
We do use illumin8. Have had some success with it but be prepared to spend some time getting to the end point. We also use Nerac for tracking of develop- ments in an ongoing fashion and for focused searches around an idea. To be honest, we also have had a great deal of success with good old
As for challenges where the scouting is kind of done for you, there is IdeaCon- nection, NineSigma, and yet2.com as well as a host of others. Each one of these uses a slightly different M.O. to seek out tech- nologies that may be helpful to your chal- lenge, and I would encourage you to contact them individually to learn more.
In all cases, the main pro is that, once you specify what you are seeking, they do all the work for you except for illu- min8/
Q: What IT tools are you using to help accelerate internal innovation?
We are looking for IT tools that can help accelerate internal innovation. One possible approach entails developing an "innovation portal" in which employees from multiple company organizations and skill sets are connected by a visu- ally compelling computer program or tablet/smartphone app. This program would serve to reinforce nascent ideas between potential internal collabora- tors with curated information features such as "Best Practices of
1. What computer programs or apps have you implemented in your organization to foster internal innovation?
2. What, if any, are the incentives pro- vided for employees to leverage the services of the innovation portal?
3. Has your organization benefited from the innovation portal? If yes, how? If no, why not?
4. Do you have other suggestions that would aid in the development of our innovation portal?
5. How do you maintain, curate, and archive the resulting content from the portal?
Our primary means for accomplishing this is by use of a software program called Kindling by Arc. It allows us to network with our other facilities across the globe, post challenges (with rewards if we so wish), provide articles that a party may feel are of interest to the community, and share ideas. It can also allow postings to go outside the com- pany if one wishes, but in a controlled manner (e.g., one can allow only cer- tain customers or suppliers to view them). We have not yet leveraged that aspect of the program. Finally, Kin- dling, relative to other OI tools that provide this kind of service, is quite economical. Supposedly,
We have not developed an idea portal in a computer system. The challenge is to get a forum where employees gener- ate and develop ideas openly and to- gether. Over the years we've developed a number of forums and repositories where ideas and problems can be shared, but never in one computer sys- tem. The difficulty is that the computer system is maybe 10 percent of the solu- tion-the remainder being the culture of idea generation and sharing. I agree if you have that in place and running well, a computer system is a great way to optimize and speed idea generation and development.
We do not have such a portal, but it is an interesting idea. Some risks associated with it are that nascent ideas could be shared too broadly and therefore more subject to be mistaken for intentional external disclosure. Many companies hesitate to adopt such systems without a clear access control mechanism or by educating the technical community on how and when to use that innovation portal, as opposed to the invention dis- closure system.
Q: How do you encourage employee participation in professional organizations?
We are proposing an incentive/recog- nition program for our employees who spend time and effort by participating and leading committees in professional organizations. In preparation, we are interested in benchmarking against other companies on how they might incentivize or encourage their employ- ees to do so. We appreciate your insight and sharing your company' s program for professional organization leader- ship/participation.
Large industrial products company
Perhaps we are fortunate, but for the most part we don' t have to actively "push" employee participation in profes- sional organizations. As long as the or- ganization covers their membership fees, associated travel costs, etc., then their sense of autonomy, mastery, and pur- pose (
RD&E Director, Technology Partnerships and Development NALCO Champion,
The company reimburses employees 50 percent of the professional organi- zation's annual membership fees. Ex- penses incurred by the employee for local events are also covered under the corporate travel policy. Non-local professional organization event ex- penses are covered at the discretion of the employee's manager only if the event is directly related to the assigned work of the employee. In this case, the employee is expected to provide a de- brief of the event to peers to share the learning. Technical management is en- couraged to attend the debrief in support of the colleague. No special recognition is given for employees who take on leader- ship roles for professional organizations, although these roles can be used as per- sonal growth opportunities for the em- ployee's development plan.
We encourage participation in profes- sional organizations by writing it into employees' performance goals and/or individual development plans. And we also support travel to professional organizations' meetings and confer- ences. One other way we encourage it is by making it part of the job description. For example, "CPA Preferred," etc.
Manager, Library & Information Resources Weyerhaeuser
In R&D at
* Informal encouragement to key staff.
* Set, keep records on, and track metrics of number of external publications, technical conference presentations, or technical trade magazine contributions in technical managers' personal perfor- mance management "MBO" process.
* Agree and review progress on pro- fessional organization participation for individual managers' or engi- neers' personal professional devel- opment plans.
Vice President Industrial Technology Kennametal Inc.
We don't provide any formal incen- tives for participation in professional groups, other than travel expense and allowing for the time from work. The ability to work outside and gain skills is often incentive enough for technical personnel who want to keep and ex- pand their professional network. It is important that they are given time to support any company-sponsored out- side activities and not just expect that they do it "in addition to their day job."
In this space, we publish queries and answers from IRI's e-mail--based community forum. Ques- tions and responses are selected for complete- ness, relevance, and broad interest and are edited for format, grammar, and to fit the avail- able space.
The community forum is available to IRI members via the IRI website; from the home page, select Collaboration Center, then
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