An Overview of the Opportunity Area
In-store sales hub/kiosk is a technology created by HMV Group. This technology enables customers to scan a product and pay for it then and there whether through cash, credit/debit card, a HMV reward card, or other methods of online payment. The company allows workers to perform most of their tasks in groups of six, which encourages creativity and innovation (Gorski & Heinekamp 2002). For effective participation and to avoid redundancy in idea generation process, a group should not have more than 12 members, and group sessions should not exceed 45 minutes. Groups normally think about the ideas that would lead to development of products and services that can satisfy needs of customers.
Innovation Project Charter
There have been delays regarding customers’ request and payment for orders at HMV Group. This prompted the Company’s management, using ideas of various group members, to develop a technology that would enable customers to scan their products and pay for them instantly through cash, credit/debit card, a HMV reward card, or other methods of online payment. The technology focused on the use of the internet to enable customers from various parts of the world to access and use. While the project was developed to improve customer service at that moment, it is open for improvements to meet the ever changing needs of customers.
Brief Details of Ideation Techniques Employed
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The innovation process followed a problem-based ideation technique and utilized focus group to determine various solutions to the problems encountered by customers and the Company’s workers. The groups came up with various problems that both customers and employees face and recommended to the management various ways of solving them.
Development of in-store sales hub/kiosk technology started when the management encouraged the groups to identify a problem and come up with good ideas that would satisfy the needs of users and make the company overthrow it competitors. The management promised to reward groups that provided the best ideas. Group members identified various problems that users experienced with both company’s products and services or other technological problems. They also determined their product categories and identified frequent users of product categories to determine severity of problems. According to Fornell & Menko (1981), identification of product category and frequent users make it possible to group problems that overlap. The group also ranked problems according to how they annoy users and according to the number of times they occur.
Generation of ideas happened when groups brainstormed while having lunch during lunch breaks. Since group members interact with customers on a daily basis, they tried to come up with ideas about improvements that should be made in existing system and in new products that would meet the needs of users. Since they knew that brainstorming is not making decisions, they welcomed and listed all ideas. Group members knew that criticizing ideas of other members would discourage and suppress many ideas that could have been expressed. Therefore, they discouraged judging other’s ideas. The group numbered each idea and circled related ones using pens with similar colors. Throughout the discussions and analysis of the ideas, they divided them into "promising", "interesting possibility", and "rejected" categories.
Throughout brainstorming sessions, the groups were guided by Edward de Bono’s strategy of thinking to explore different approaches to thinking. Edward de Bono’s strategy, also known as thinking hats, includes the use of hats of different colors – each representing a different approach to thinking about a problem or issue. The white hat encourages utilization of information that is well-known by group members, red hat enables expression of emotions and feelings by group members as well as sharing fears, likes, and dislikes, black hat encourages spotting of difficulties and dangers, yellow hat encourages exploration of advantages and benefits, green hat encourages more creativity on ideas, and blue hat controls the thinking process (Bono 1999).
The ideas generated by group members came from both internal and external sources. Internal sources included customer services, purchasing and supply, engineering, research and development, marketing and sales, and production. External sources of ideas included customer feedbacks, suppliers, distributors, and competitors. As group members served customers, they identified their needs and developed ideas that made them easier to be met. According to Cooper & Kleinschmidt (1995) and Cooper et al. (2002), there is a strong relationship between identification and understanding the needs of users and success of product in the market after development. This is because customers provide critical information relating to new products (Kristensson et al. 2004). Gruner & Homberg (2000) contend that interaction with customers from idea generation to development stage is very important in developing systems that fully satisfy the needs of customers. Customers normally state what they need from organizations that deal with particular products and services but have no solutions in mind.
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After identifying the ideas that would enable satisfaction of the needs of customers, they presented them to the managers, who evaluated them in order to determine those that could be implemented. The number of ideas that the management evaluated for technical and financial feasibility was 20. Though the management identified three ideas for implementation, one (the in-store sales hub/kiosk) was successfully implemented as it not only satisfied the needs of customers but also provided good revenue as it was cost effective.
Management formed a cross-functional project team consisting of programmers, database developers, and network administrators, who were company’s employees. According to Brown & Eisenhardt (1995), a cross functional team is beneficial in project development if it consists of people from diverse educational and social backgrounds, who provide a variety of information, help understand design from various perspectives, and help identify and solve problems fast. Since the innovation was made by internal employees of the company, and the project team involved internal team members, it was a closed innovation model. Closed model of innovation enables organizations to control information, co-locate functional specialists, control technology, develop systems with unique capabilities, manage portfolios, and share resources (Chesbrough 2003).
The project was headed by chief information officer, and the project team effectively communicated internally and externally. Internal communication helped the team understand each other since it reduced communication barriers, helped them obtain a lot of information, and built team cohesion (Brown & Eisenhardt 1995). External communication made the team meet and share information regarding the project with customers and the government. Project manager communicated expectations to his team members regularly, evaluated milestones, created a conducive environment, boosted morale of team members, distributed tasks to team members, guided them, and solved conflicts or misunderstanding that occurred (Jassawalla & Sashittall 2000).
Company’s innovation process was a management process. It considered macro factors, competition from other companies, return on investment, and costs in order to fit its organizational and business strategy. Other factors that triggered innovation management were development of science and technology, suppliers, needs of society members, distributors, customers, and strategic alliances (Trott, 2008). The system developed was a new product line. The company developed an original product compared to what it had developed before. According to Booze, Allen, & Hamilton (1982) and Griffin (1997), 20% of new products are developed by many firms.
Project team formed by the management adopted an engineering approach to system development. Led by the chief information officer, the project team assessed needs, performed system analysis, designed, developed, implemented, and maintained the system (Wysocki2006). Needs assessment involves gathering data regarding what users want, identifying opportunities, and ranking them in order of importance. Analysis involves consideration of many designs, determining their advantages and disadvantages, and selecting the best design that can fully satisfy the needs of users (Awad 1985). The design stage includes creating detailed specifications for the system and coming up with models that properly represent it.
The development stage involves acquisition of software or hardware that is necessary for the implementation of the system. At the implementation stage, the project team coded the system, each focusing on areas he or she is good at (Gupta 2008). The project team performed unit, component, and integration testing (Hughes & Cotterell 2006; Myers 2004) of the system before it was delivered to users. Unit testing analyzes small components of systems, such as program’s class, to ensure it operates as required. Component testing focuses on the interaction of various parts of a program to guarantee their proper operation. Integration testing tests the interaction of large components of systems. Finally, system testing tests the entire system in real conditions.
The project team performed a pilot implementation. It introduced the system to a group of customers to test its functionality and later introduced it to all customers (Perry 1983). Pilot implementation requires moderate amount of time, does not cost the company a lot of money, and poses less risks as system’s weaknesses can be detected early before it is introduced to all customers (Stellman & Greene 2005). Project team members were aware of innovation licenses required of them, including software licensing and branding, and ensured that they met all requirements before they developed and launched the completed project. Since the company already has license for products they sell, it incorporated some of them into the innovation process. It also ensured that all regulations governing software development, installation, and maintenance were adhered to.
When launching the system, the company did preliminary investigation about the size of market for its product, competitors, regulations, and resources (Cooper 1993). Since HMV had operated for many years, it had a large market share during In-store sales hub/kiosk launch and had a lot of customers. To inform people about the product, the company launched a marketing campaign that incorporated both old and new marketing techniques. It utilized radio, television, web banners, billboards, social media like Facebook and Twitter, and roadshows to tell users about the new technology. It also offered low-priced services to attract and retain many customers (Guiltinan 1999; Hultink et al. 1997, 1999).
HMV improved the In-store sales hub/kiosk product through group brainstorming and adopted engineering approach to project development. Having effectively and professionally managed and launched the project, it has benefited to a great extent. To continuously meet the needs of users the company has been improving the In-store sales hub/kiosk service by adding many features to satisfy the ever-changing needs of users. After realizing that many projects fail due to inadequate allocation of funds and poor management and commercialization, the company chose a project that did not require a lot of funds. Further, it allocated enough funds and managed and commercialized it well. These steps led to a successful completion of the project and its success in the market.
Being involved in an innovation project is not only interesting but also educative. I learnt that working in groups promotes innovation. Through brainstorming, group members can come up with ideas that can lead to innovation of products and services that help organizations overthrow competition. During brainstorming session, the time taken to brainstorm and the number of group members greatly affect the outcomes of the process. More time spent during an innovation session makes group members tired. It makes them divert their attention to other things that do not relate to the discussions. Approximately 30 to 45 minutes is enough for brainstorming so that group members could participate actively. Too many group members create redundancy as some group members would not participate in the process. About 6 to 12 group members are enough to participate in brainstorming.
For businesses, customers are kings and they determine what is innovated by organizations. Organizations are motivated to innovate in order to satisfy the needs of users. With the help of marketing department, organizations perform market research to determine reaction of customers to their products and services and what they need. Then they come up with ideas to enable them develop products and services that satisfy these needs. While group members may come up with many projects, organizations normally perform a feasibility study to determine those that are feasible and can be developed using less resources to generate more income.
While an organization might have enough personnel and finances to complete a project, choice of project team determines its successful completion, while the mode of project launch determines its entry in the market. Good project managers would ensure that projects have enough of qualified personnel and each person are assigned tasks that he or she can properly handle. Internal and external communication is also important as it enables smooth running and completion of projects.
Innovation and project management concepts are very useful as organizations nowadays employ people who are creative, promote innovation, and can manage various projects. They are also useful as they enlighten students on the activities that happen in real industries and equip them with skills that enable them to innovate in real industries. Innovation process and project management will help me in my future career development as it equips me with skills and concepts necessary to innovate and help organizations develop products and services that meet the needs of users and bring high returns.
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