by Elana Varon

A Model for Software Innovation

Oct 03, 20072 mins
Enterprise Applications

Here’s an example, from IBM, of what I was talking about yesterday – opening up your corporate systems APIs.

Letting employees muck around with corporate infrastructure and applications is one way that IBM’s internal IT group has become a player in the company’s product innovation process, according to a new paper in the IBM Systems Journal (referenced yesterday by the Burton Group’s Mike Gotta in his

Collaborative Thinking


The CIO organization set up an intranet site with a Web development environment that pretty much anyone with an idea can use for a few months. Employees can download innovations, use them and rate them before a formal evaluation determines whether they’ll be supported as production applications. Because it’s IBM, the innovations eventually make their way into products, so supporting internal systems innovation is aligned with the company’s business strategy. But it looks like a model that makes sense for other industries, too.

What better way for IT departments to know what end users (or customers) really need and care about? Years ago, a CIO for an online brokerage told me that some of the best ideas for product innovations came from developers who were trading stocks at home at night.

Yesterday morning I interviewed business strategy guru Gary Hamel about his new book, the Future of Management (promotional excerpt here). Hamel sees a big role for IT departments doing the very types of things that IBM describes: Creating environments that enable employees to share, develop and vet their ideas (more about the book and my interview with Hamel coming soon).

Go ahead and read the IBM paper (you can download it here) and let’s talk about it. Is what they’re doing applicable to other organizations?