I recently rolled out Kindling, an idea management app, across my company. If you aren’t familiar with idea management apps, there’s no shortage of them. This blog lists 44. The idea is to get more people involved in idea generation and evaluation. The various software packages are designed to help you collect and manage ideas.
Some are simple. Some are complex. You can invite customers to participate. You can segment areas limiting access to some and opening up others. You can integrate feedback forms. But I didn’t want most of that.
I just wanted a place that allowed people to share and vote up ideas. I wanted a really easy-to-use interface that every single person in my company would use on a regular basis. That means sales, engineering, client services, marketing, finance, everyone.
Mostly, I wanted a tool that would allow the other people in my company to communicate to the product team what changes would make their lives easier. And I wanted to be able to easily communicate what we could do, what we couldn’t do, and why. I had three clear use-cases in mind.
1) Allow groups to give feedback on what product changes would improve their day-to-day jobs.
Each group has their own category where they can suggest product enhancements that will make their jobs easier. For example, our client services team might request a new feature on an internal tool that they use every day. Our sales team might request a feature on our main product that they hear often from customers.
Each group can then vote for the ideas that will have the biggest impact on their jobs.
That’s pretty powerful. Here’s why. People tend to suggest improvements or changes in the moment when the need arises. But in the moment, you can’t adequately assess how critical the need is. In the moment, everything is critical. But we usually can’t build things in the moment, so they go in the backlog. But overtime, the need may lessen. Maybe the situation that occurred, rarely occurs.
Allowing teams to collect their requests in one place and then distribute a limited number of votes across those requests, helps the product team see where the biggest impact needs are. Now we have much better data around what will really make a difference for our different teams.
2) Allow everyone in the company to suggest product improvements and participate in solving our biggest challenges.
Like most companies, we have a number of hard problems that we are trying to solve. As I’ve written before, I don’t believe the product and engineering teams are the only ones responsible for solving these problems. Everyone needs to be involved in generating and evaluating ideas.
I wanted a place where I could identify challenges we were encountering and invite everyone in the company to generate ideas around how to solve them. They also have the ability to vote each others’ ideas up, allowing the best ideas to propagate to the top.
3) Communicate what we are building, why, and when it will be released.
And finally, I wanted to do a better job of communicating what can and can’t be done. There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing time and time again, we can’t do that.
In the first use-case, if our sales team is hearing the same feature request over and over again, I want to make sure they understand how we are going to address the request and when they might see something change. I want to make sure they are well-equipped to respond to the customer.
In the second use-case, I want to make sure that everyone understands why some ideas are going to get implemented and others aren’t. Over time, I want to help build the organization’s knowledge of what we do and what we don’t do.
By creating a shared space where everyone in the company can generate and evaluate ideas, and everyone can see the feedback from the product and engineering team, the product development process becomes more transparent. It becomes less about what the product and engineering team wants to build and more about who we are as a company.
We are less than 3 months in using Kindling and so far, it’s exceeded my expectations.
- 25 of 27 employees are participating
- We’ve generated 167 ideas with 227 comments and 316 votes.
- 13 ideas have been approved for development, 6 have been completed, 3 are in development, and 2 are in the backlog.
13 out of 167 might seem like a small percentage. But we’ve only had 2 ideas declined. The rest are still actively being discussed and considered.
Overall, I’d say the rollout has been very successful. If you are looking for a simple product that does one thing well, I’d highly recommend Kindling to collect and manage ideas across your company.
Do you use an idea management app? Are you considering one? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.