CRM working in Innovation, thus turning to NRM (Network Relationship Management)
Continuous changes in market and competitive environment forces companies to maintain a high flexibility.
Feeling this constant push towards faster innovation, they striving for shorter product lifecycles while new features have to be provided in a constant flow.
Every department within the organization is asked to provide new concepts and improvements. Market research, research and development, marketing, manufacturing and even sales are facing these requests on a daily base.
More and more we see external sources being involved to comply with this demand.
Some keywords I would like to throw in are: Open innovation, mass customization and research pools. All wield good results and they are showing that collaboration turns out to be rewarding.
From single or ad hoc cooperation for a project to long term strategic co-operations: there is an increased count in number, settings and participants in such joint activities.
And research sees an increasing amount of small and medium sized companies (SMEs) engaging in these co-operations.
Critical: Human factor
Important for successful projects in cooperation are high quality and up to date networks. And of course they have to be accessible to everyone within the participating enterprise.
Another critical factor is human interaction. Organizations use the individual ability of their staff to form personal relations, build trust and a productive atmosphere to achieve a good cooperation. This enables constructive discussions which is essential to avoid or resolve conflicts already in early stages.
Expertise on the matter and the ability to communicate is crucial. Even if strategic fit seems to be perfect, without this communication and human interaction a project is destined to fail.
Constant and stable communication within the network provides stability in conflict engagement and resolving, thus leading to success.
To enable your staff to maintain the network a solid infrastructure is needed. This is not limited to external contacts, but engaging internal communication as well. Efficient interaction between departments and their unique contribution is a highly valuable asset.
While every user has its own agenda in interacting.
Every department has its contribution
Expertise on the matter of research is contributed by the staff from research and development. They are the experts to judge the technology maturity or feasibility. But marketing has a word with it, too. Would it sell?
If there is going to be a cooperation, legal department has a say. Understanding the subject and turning it into an agreement with the partnering institution is their area of expertise.
Now for the money. Does it pay off? To answer this sales and controlling are supposed to be engaged as well.
Setting up a host where all the associated parties of a project can capture and share the latest information and track its progress seems to be reasonable.
Tracking, process support with templates and protocols for passing on information form a core technology in this process.
Benefits from a working cooperation can be:
Reach out to missing resources (e.g. staffing, finance, reputation, market access…), new technologies, mitigate risks or shorten development times for innovation projects are scientifically verified benefits.
Approach and conclusion
An approach to realize those benefits is the introduction of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Deriving from marketing and sales, these tools matured on long term practical knowledge on how to communicate efficiently and keep track of activities.
With a few adjustments, a communication host can be set up for the project teams. All data is stored discretely, central and transparent for the users. The software keeps track, stores results, provides document management and even supports with workflows and templates.
By simply keeping everything in one spot, information does not get lost any longer. Participants can update their trade in no time and automated responses on certain steps in projects can be triggered. Based on the experience of former projects, such tools can wield expert knowledge on the procedure and provide newcomers with best business practices.
Even if someone has to step in for a colleague or a new staff member is added to the team, catching up and having the right people to talk to is ensured. By having telephone calls, emails, social media interactions and other communication logged in the system, the chance of missing important information is reduced.
Adding these improvements from other departments to innovation teams leads us to a new definition of CRM: Network Relationship Management (NRM).