Seven Tips To Purchasing Innovation Management Software So It Doesn’t Become Selfware

Purchasing Innovation Management Software So It Doesn’t Become Shelfware:

Innovation management applications are notorious for becoming shelfware; software that a company buys, but nobody uses….don’t let this happen to you.  According to a poll that was conducted by software vendor IE Software, companies in the U.S. waste $12.3 billion per year on maintenance for software that no one actually uses.

Innovation organizations don’t have much discretionary budget, and every dollar spent on tools needs to demonstrate long-term value. This is particularly true for the new types of software and applications beyond CAD. Unfortunately, innovation management applications are are often found to be under-utilized or abandoned all together.  This tends to happen when the company focus is on the purchase decision, not on it’s day-to-day use.  So, soon after the initial enthusiasm is over, users begin to abandon the software.  Suddenly, it’s a year later and nobody has used it…it’s become shelfware.  The investment is a sunk cost, and the entire concept is blamed, preventing the company from evaluating other options.

Here are six tips on how to ensure that your company’s purchase of innovation management software doesn’t become shelfware.

1: Align Software Selection With Business Strategy

All too often, the decision to purchase innovation management software is made at the most senior levels.  The promise of increasing innovation flow and leveraging the creative ideas from throughout the organization can be compelling.  Processes to identify which ideas are worth pursuing are integrated into most innovation management applications, regardless if the app is in the idea capture or social collaboration category (more about the categories of innovation management software can be found here).

However, if the software’s idea assessment criteria is not aligned with the company’s strategy (even in terms of disruptive ideas) the highest ranked ideas will likely be ignored – contributing to the software becoming shelfware.  If participants perceive that their contributions are never ‘good’, they will stop using the innovation management software and find other avenues to promote ideas they feel are worthy of consideration.

It’s important that the idea capture assessment criteria are aligned with company and business strategy, regardless if the assessment is made by an executive team or via a collaborative, social, mechanism.

2: Understand Who is Really Going to Use it

In many cases the decision of which vendor’s application to purchase is made by a cross-department team.  Unfortunately, this consensus approach often fails to give adequate weight to the needs of the heaviest users of innovation management software; the innovation teams.

During product evaluation, consider who the ultimate users, are and have a few of them evaluate a realistic installation of the product against appropriate use cases (to see how the application works, or doesn’t for your company’s unique needs) and for a meaningful amount of time (to determine if the app is designed for efficient use by power users).  The end users’ opinions (and their implicit commitment to use the innovation management software) should be given the majority weight during the purchase decision.

3: Consider the Cloud

Innovation management applications are available in many levels of technical complexity.   Although there continue to be enterprise server hosted solutions, increasingly innovation management applications are web based.  Web-based applications have many advantages over enterprise systems. They are accessible through any web browser or smart phone. They are unaffected by company server upgrades.  Upgrades and technical support can also be more timely. Even security, until recently a significant hurdle for business adoption of cloud-based software, can meet the same levels of protection afforded an enterprise server.

4: Look at Lightweight

Innovation management software began as enterprise software. Many providers continue to offer applications that integrate with ERP and other enterprise systems. Additionally, some innovation management applications have become complex and unwieldy, difficult to learn, with expensive modules that might be unnecessary for your company’s need.  Sometimes companies need a scapel, not a swiss-army knife, of innovation management software. So, newer, lightweight, innovation management applications should also be considered.  One such offering is  It is a low-cost, lightweight innovation inventory management application that’s been growing rapidly.

5: Invest in Customization and Services

No software can be perfectly matched to your company’s needs right out of the box.   Choosing an application that can be customized is key to it becoming a important component of your innovation development process.  From basic features, such as graphics and logos, to aligning terminology and providing data fields that are natural for your company’s users will go a long way to making sure your company gets the most from their investment.  For innovation management software there is no singular best practice, what important is the software works best for your company.

6:  Choose Software That Can Evolve With Your Needs

For most customers, the innovation management software they purchase will be their company’s first experience with the category.  However, as employees begin using the application and it has an effect on other processes, it’s likely that the application will need to evolve as well.  Choosing innovation management software that cannot be easily modified means you’ll be stuck with a program that worked best when the company was unfamiliar with it, leading to it becoming shelfware.  The paradox of an application that cannot be customize is it is likely to have good initial adoption, but more quickly become abandoned as users become familiar with it.

7: Don’t force-feed software to organizations

Getting an organization to adopt software is like getting a child to eat a new food. With lots of cajoling you can get them to poke at it, but you can’t force them to eat it.  As with any software, the first impression and the way it’s introduced are key.

For example, it’s difficult for a innovation team to force a marketing  team to use the innovation team’s choice of software. This mentality will only spawn and entrench opposition. Instead, bring a small number of key managers and power users into the purchasing process early on. Bring in all of the stakeholders to plan the deployment and integration before it’s rolled out. Show them how the software will make their lives better and easier.


By considering adoption and on-going use as they primary goal of the purchase of innovation software, shelfware can be avoided. Once adoption occurs, users gain confidence and start to tailor the application to their needs, making it a powerful innovation tool.  But it will never happen unless adoption is achieved from the very beginning.




photo credit: Dennis Larson via photopin cc

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