As if it’s a real treasure island, innovation companies and their R&D departments strictly guard their most precious assets – valuable knowledge and human resources. However, even with a small number of employees, innovation-focused companies are not so simple to manage, as their vitally important task is to handle some very specific processes such as research, idea generation, screening and nurturing. Moreover, innovation companies have to attract investors to raise funds for their breakthroughs. In biotechnology, as we have seen in our practice, there is even a bigger challenge of coming through years of tests and approvals before reaching a plateau of productivity.
To cut short, it is not hard to understand that innovations have a lot of pitfalls. This is where innovation management software can help. Among numerous solutions offered to support innovations, SharePoint is the one that successfully combines knowledge management, collaboration and security mechanisms which form three pillars of innovation management.
The process of idea generation has almost stayed the same through centuries: it still starts with someone’s light-bulb moment or in-depth study.
Searching for a high-quality concept, innovation-responsible employees generate dozens of ideas every day. Before they discard some of them as unrealistic, you will want to take care of all of them in case they turn out to be a jewel (remember James Watt, a famous Scottish mechanical engineer? His steam engine that started out the Industrial Revolution was used just for pumping water out of mines for almost 50 years!)
To keep track of them, ideas should be stored in an appropriate knowledge base (KB). SharePoint can serve both as a knowledge base and an effective tool to manage a company’s internal knowledge treasury.
- Structure – SharePoint enables users to structure ideas in Libraries and Lists. Categorized by content type, ideas can be reviewed or shared at any moment. The idea graph contains elements (idea title, category, author, contributors, status, etc.) that facilitate data search and updates. It is also easy to upload and move files with drag-and-drop.
- Integration – Business Connectivity Services enable users to access data located outside SharePoint (e.g. in Outlook, Excel, Visio, Word), retrieve, filter, sort and present it for interaction.
- Search – with SharePoint, there is no risk to be lost in files. Properly adjusted, SharePoint Search enables users to quickly find the requested information. Users are free to filter search results, extend or limit search parameters and preview the files found.
ScienceSoft’s tip: SharePoint as a knowledge management system is clockwork if you restrict use of other KB management systems or prevent your employees from storing their ideas out of your SharePoint site. Provided that your SharePoint KB is permanently renewed and represents the warehouse of unique ideas, it will serve you well.
Meanwhile, let’s keep in mind that document storage is not knowledge management yet. To become a real knowledge, information should be discussed, shared and expanded. And here we come to the second pillar.
Innovation is undoubtedly a team activity. Once generated, any idea is rather raw and shapeless. Collaboration is a magic key to transform a newborn idea into a well-shaped concept. Considered as an internal social network or intranet, SharePoint encourage employees to collaborate. It includes a number of tools that make a company’s social computing and communication enjoyable:
- SharePoint discussion board – a communication hub that enables users to exchange ideas, to answer questions, provide feedback, choose the best opinions or ideas.
- Social networking – the latest SharePoint versions have social networking features: a built-in messenger (Yammer), microblogs, likes, shares, hash tags, status updates, etc.
- Feeds – My site is a SharePoint feed-rich section (e.g. Newsfeed, Everyone feed, Activities feed), which displays latest items, posts or activities to accompany a project or ideas.
- Community Sites – a useful tool to encourage innovators’ communication. A Community Site helps to discuss an innovative idea or a project. Best answers or ideas generated in discussions can be rated by a moderator and placed at the top of the page, so that everyone can see them.
Why is collaboration important? Collaboration is the way to a higher team productivity, as it accelerates both idea generation and nurturing. SharePoint is a good example of collaboration software that helps to raise the level of employees’ involvement. Co-creation boost innovative thinking that expands a company’s innovation pool and increases the visibility of ideas.
Here you can find our customer’s success story that proves the effectiveness of SharePoint as an innovation and collaboration platform.
ScienceSoft’s tip: SharePoint can also help to overcome that fear of failure. Creating the area for idea generation and discussion, an innovation manager can be sure that no idea is lost on the way due to fears (‘Nobody can understand and appreciate my idea’) or doubts (‘I think, somebody has already shared the same idea’).
In innovation management, security issues are of top importance, since know-how leaks can lead to tragic consequences. As an innovation management solution, SharePoint provides effective, in-built security protection tools:
- Server security – As a Microsoft product, SharePoint is well-equipped with security features in line with Microsoft’s best practices. Moreover, the SharePoint server can be reinforced to minimize the server’s attack surface (number-one step will be to isolate server roles).
- Authentication and authorization – SharePoint provides security for websites, lists, folders and items. To be able to perform specific actions, users should be granted respective rights by a system administrator. Security management is role-based at all levels, which enables breach-free security across the entire SharePoint platform.
- Distribution of access rights - SharePoint is highly flexible when it comes to assigning access rights. Access rights can be granted or restricted at any level, which allows regulating the access level to particular data or to the entire knowledge base.
ScienceSoft’s tip: Do not underestimate user trainings. A wide range of security issues can be prevented by explaining employees the importance of the data they store and share. Point out that extracting documents from the internal SharePoint site and using them in external resources (personal email, file hosting services, etc.) can lead to undeliberate breaches in their company’s security.
When used and managed properly, a SharePoint site contributes greatly to a company’s knowledge base evolution. Effective for the purposes of collaboration, knowledge management and security, SharePoint is a handy tool to accumulate more valuable knowledge and protect it properly from security breaches.
For more details on SharePoint advantages in innovation management, please contact our SharePoint consultants.
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