Introduction to idea management
Ideas drive innovation. Effective idea management involves collecting, organizing, and evaluating insights and feedback. It helps you identify the new features, enhancements, or even large initiatives to include on your roadmaps. The goal is for feedback to be seamlessly integrated into your product planning and development processes.
Idea management is pivotal to your success as a product manager. But you likely receive feedback and requests in a number of ways — customer conversations, sales calls, and support tickets. 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.
Why is idea management important?
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.
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.
Managing the inflow of ideas and feedback can be overwhelming — especially when you are managing requests by the hundreds or thousands. By establishing a clear approach for idea management, product managers can:
Encourage customers to share their feedback openly.
Empower customer-facing internal teams, such as sales and support, to provide ideas from customers and add critical business details.
Understand who their customers are and what they need.
Consider broader themes rather than responding to the needs of a few.
Drive innovation by inspiring future releases and sometimes even the creation of new products.
Communicate with customers in a transparent way about which ideas are planned and which will not be implemented.
Align feedback and requests to company goals.
Manage the flow of ideas and prioritize them into a roadmap that makes sense for the product and company.
How do you gather ideas?
Most people are happy to share feedback when asked. So it is important to be intentional with how you gather and organize ideas. There are several methods for gathering customer feedback. One of the most common approaches is to have a repository where customers and other stakeholders can submit ideas. Interviews and focus groups can also be effective ways to get more detailed feedback on a specific idea.
Idea management software enables customers and users to submit ideas, usually through a web-based interface, and then allows you to track those submissions in a centralized place. Functionality often includes the ability for customers to view and vote on ideas submitted by others. Votes can give customers a voice, as well as provide clarity for the product team as to what is most needed. The best idea management software allows you to create forums for groups to submit ideas with different visibility choices.
Idea management tools provide an integrated way for gathering and responding to ideas, feedback, and questions. This can also allow product teams to quickly communicate with users if their ideas are prioritized and scheduled for future releases.
How do you manage ideas?
It is your job as a product manager to organize, review, and track ideas to determine which ones to promote to your roadmap. This gives your customers a voice, helping you identify unaddressed problems or unfulfilled needs in the market.
In order to effectively manage ideas, you need a clear process. The table below outlines basic steps and what you can do at each point.
Use idea management software, like the Aha! ideas portal, to gather feedback and track ideas in a centralized place. This also gives 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 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 scorecard and use it to help you rank ideas. A scorecard can have various metrics, including impact and effort. You can use a simple "effort" scale to rank and prioritize ideas based on projected maximum value.
Track idea themes
Recognizing themes in ideas 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 and idea management software 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.
Good ideas lead to innovation and innovation leads to market leadership. 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.
The articles in this section of the product management guide will help provide a framework for you to define and implement an idea management process that works for your organization.
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