What is idea management?
Great ideas drive innovation. But generating a lot of ideas is not enough to deliver greater value and achieve market leadership. You need a way to gather and assess suggestions against your strategic direction. Idea management is the process of collecting, organizing, evaluating, and prioritizing insights and feedback — so you can continually improve what you deliver and delight customers.
The "idea" part of idea management is about generation. Ideation can come from many sources, so you want to make it very easy for customers, teammates, and partners to submit and share their thoughts. The "management" part requires sorting and prioritizing the most relevant ideas against your strategy, so you can then take action to enhance an existing product or experience or create a new one.
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This is an example of an ideas portal — available in Aha! Roadmaps and Aha! Ideas.
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Why is idea management important?
Idea management is pivotal to your success as a product manager. A robust idea management process helps you identify the new features, enhancements, or even large initiatives to include on your roadmap — so it is informed by real customer needs. The goal is for feedback to be seamlessly integrated into your product development process.
But you likely receive feedback and requests in a number of ways — via customer conversations, sales calls, support tickets, and more. Those ideas might be captured in emails, spreadsheets, notes, and presentations. When ideas are scattered across multiple locations, it can be challenging to recognize trending themes and prioritize the ones that will bring value to your business and delight your customers.
Idea management helps you understand and empathize with your users' needs. It enables you to engage in conversations to uncover what customers are really asking for and how to solve it. You can stay close to what customers want, keep that information organized, and focus your efforts accordingly.
Managing the inflow of ideas and feedback can be overwhelming — especially when you are tracking requests by the hundreds or thousands. By establishing a clear system for idea management, product managers can:
Encourage customers to share their feedback openly.
Understand who your customers are and what they need.
Empower internal teams (engineering, marketing, sales, support) to provide ideas from customers and add critical business details.
Align feedback and requests to company goals.
Consider broader themes that support your product strategy rather than responding to the needs of a few people.
Manage the flow of ideas and prioritize them for your roadmap in a way that makes sense for the product and company.
Communicate with customers in a transparent way about which ideas are planned and which will not be implemented.
Drive innovation by inspiring future releases and sometimes even the creation of new products.
Who is responsible for idea management?
Product managers oversee the influx and review of ideas. It is your job to review every idea so you can identify the next great opportunity. You are responsible for auditing and stewarding those ideas — from concept to implementation.
But not all ideas make sense to invest in. You may determine that an idea does not align with your vision or current product plans. Other times, the idea reflects customer frustration — something is not working the way the customer thinks it should. It is important to ask yourself, "What is this person really asking for?" so you can uncover the root of the issue.
Idea management is also a collaborative effort because ideas can (and should) be captured across the company. It is important to engage cross-functional teams for idea generation and evaluation — other groups in the organization can provide functional expertise and valuable insight.
How do product managers develop an idea management process?
Establishing a process for idea management is essential. With the right approach and the right software, you can establish a framework for idea management that helps you make sense of the feedback you receive and identify the best ideas quickly.
A formal idea management process should include critical steps such as frictionless collection, evaluation with an objective rubric, and a seamless transition from idea to your features backlog. You also want to be sure that internal teams understand the protocol for review frequency and communication.
Purpose-built idea management software like Aha! Ideas can help you achieve this. Look for a tool that allows customers and users to submit ideas, feedback, and questions through a web-based interface, then lets you track those submissions in a centralized place.
In order to effectively manage ideas, you need a clear process. The list below outlines basic steps and what you can do at each point.
Use idea management software, like Aha! ideas, to gather feedback and track ideas in a centralized place. Ideas portals give customers a way to see other suggestions and vote on ideas that resonate with them.
Review every idea
Review ideas to help you determine if more information is needed. If it is describing a specific use case, you should communicate with the customer to start a dialogue about how the idea will enhance the product. Set a time frame for reviewing ideas in a timely manner.
Create a value-based scorecard and use it to help you rank ideas. A scorecard can have various metrics including impact and effort. You can use a simple value vs. effort scale to rank and prioritize ideas based on projected maximum value.
Track idea themes
Recognizing common themes can help you focus and strategize which types of features and ideas you should concentrate on. Analyze these trends to learn which areas of your product need improvement and identify ideas with significant market demand.
Promote ideas to your roadmap
Once you have ranked ideas, you can then promote them to features and add them to your roadmaps. This is where roadmap software like Aha! Roadmaps can help by making the transition from idea to feature more seamless. Refer to your product strategy and team capacity when deciding which ideas to build and when.
Keep customers informed
Communicate the status of an idea to customers throughout the product development lifecycle. If an idea does not clearly fit with your product strategy, reject it — with kindness. Explain the decision without discouraging people from submitting other ideas in the future.
Putting idea management into practice
There are lessons to be drawn from every idea. As a product manager, it is your job to understand the need or opportunity. A structured idea management process can help you bring joy to customers and more value to your business.
While ideas are endless, your team's time is not. So you want to weigh opportunities against a realistic expectation of what the team can deliver. Use your strategic goals and initiatives as a framework to decide which ideas will have the most impact. This allows you to see how an idea will clearly enhance your product line and business. Refer back to your product strategy and team capacity when deciding which ideas to build.
Ultimately, product success requires both listening to customer ideas and keeping your business goals in mind. Effectively prioritizing new and existing ideas will lead to delivering innovative product experiences to your customers.
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