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    Written by Luke Hohmann
    on December 06, 2016

    It is the time of year where we reflect on what we’ve accomplished and set plans for the coming year. Accordingly, we and several of our clients are presently engaged in various forms of strategic planning and road-mapping. You might also be engaged in similar activities, so for this month’s 
    framework of the month I want to focus on a framework that is great at helping organizations in strategic planning: The Innovation Ambition Matrix. We use this framework so we think you should use it too. This framework works well with the Sweet Spot of Strategy and Horizon Planning frameworks, which I will cover in a future framework of the month.


    The Innovation Ambition Matrix was inspired by the May 2012 Harvard Business Review article, “Managing Your Innovation Portfolio,” written by Monitor’s co-partners: 
    Bansi Nagji 
    and Geoff Tuff. The framework helps teams develop a holistic view of their present and potential/future opportunities for improved and/or new products and services based on three kinds or categories of innovation: core, adjacent, and transformational. Let’s explore the structure of the framework and the corresponding categories of innovation.

    Where to Play and How to Win InnovAmbPlayNow.png

    The history of Conteneo is deeply rooted in collaborative play, so we love that Nagii and Tuff characterize the axes in terms of “playing in a market” and “winning in a market”:
    The Y-Axis captures where to play: Serving existing markets and customers; entering adjacent markets or creating new markets.The X-Axis captures how you intend to win: Using or extending/improving existing products, adding incremental products, or developing new products.

    The structure of the matrix creates a natural set of geographic regions – the places where you can improve your core, develop adjacent offerings, or enter new markets through transformational offerings.

    Since the framework itself is pretty easy to understand, let’s explore how we’ve used the framework at Conteneo to help us frame our thinking, as this might help you in your own efforts.

    Start With What You Have 

    We started by creating a basic map of our existing offerings.

    The Conteneo collaboration cloud, Weave™ which comprises the Idea Engine (visual collaboration frameworks like Prune the Product Tree and Speed Boat) and the Decision Engine (participatory budgeting frameworks like Buy a Feature);

    Alignment Engine, which powers Knowsy®; and,

    Strategy Engine, which also powers Common Ground for Action.

    This map shows a clear vector of growth in response to market needs. Specifically, our initial offerings in the Collaboration Cloud focused on more technical problems such as road-mapping, process improvement and budgeting/portfolio management. This is our core. It is where we started and where we’ve experienced tremendous success. Indeed, if we were to show our Innovation Ambition Matrix circa 2013 you’d only see Idea Engine and Decision Engine.

    Over time, the opportunity that presented itself is that as our customers have used our core offerings to solve these technical problems they’ve asked us to help them solve wicked problems: building alignment within and between teams and helping them tackle complex, multi-faceted wicked problems. To meet these needs we’ve introduced Alignment Engine and Strategy Engine/Common Ground For Action (a future post will show how these are expressed in Horizon Planning). conteneo-innovation-ambitions-2.png

    Making Investments

    Nagii and Tuff recommend different investment allocations in Core (60%-70%), Adjacent (20%-30%) and Transformational (10%-20%) projects. We’ve found that our mix of investments doesn’t quite match their recommendations – we still have too much opportunity and growth in the core. We’re also early in the market with Alignment Engine and Strategy Engine so we’re finding our best moves for these platforms is through co-development partnerships.

    From an investment standpoint, we think of investing in the core as continuous  – we’re always investing in the core because we have a well-validated, “infinite backlog” of good work. In contrast, the investment in our adjacent and transformational markets happens in chunks that are defined and development in partnership with our early adopters of these offerings.

    Let’s focus on how we are investing in the core. There are presently two vectors to our investment, both driven by our desire to better serve market needs. The first investment is Weave, our new platform that we’re launching in January as the natural evolution to the Collaboration Cloud. I’ll explain why we changed the name in a future, but Weave is a breakthrough set of capabilities and improvements in serving our core.

    The second vector are the epics on our roadmap that will make our platform more attractive to current and adjacent markets. For example, Conteneo’s platforms were originally created as tools for customer insight and market research (the original use of Speed Boat was not for Agile retrospectives but for identifying unmet customer and market needs!).  However, we’ve subsequently found that the adjacent market for internal collaboration tools is quite natural for Conteneo (e.g., Speed Boat as a tool for retrospectives) and that this market might be even bigger than the market for customer insight / market research precisely because the existing collection of “collaboration” tools are have so many problems (teleconference tools are not collaboration tools; trivial online whiteboards don’t meet enterprise requirements for security and scale; see Clarifying Communication-Coordination-Collaboration Confusion).

    By using our own platforms and frameworks with customers we have identified several areas for future innovation. I’ll share just three in this post because they all share the same vector: Extending our platform to better support the needs of large, multi-national companies who are in the same market category but segment somewhat differently based on how they manage and organize their teams. 

    Internationalization: We’re very excited that we’re presently engaged in extending our platform to support multiple languages. This improvement is helps existing customers, adjacent customers and also enables Every Voice Engaged Foundation to better reach citizens in our Participatory Budgeting projects.

    Advanced Teams: Many of our customers are using named teams in their Agile development projects. Accordingly, we want to make these objects easier to manage so that companies can better identify enablers and impediments between teams.

    Holocracy / Sociocracy: These concepts represent new and emerging ideas on how we can increase the effectiveness of our human organizations. Over time we believe that we can continue to extend our platform to meet these markets.

    Relationship to Other Frameworks

    Experienced Weavers will recognize that my description of our use of these frameworks sounds a lot like how we might use Prune the Product Tree to capture growth and evolution. Indeed, there are strong relationships between the frameworks, or, at least how Conteneo is using them. That might because we believe deeply in the notions that companies their offerings are constantly growing, evolving and changing.

    There are some differences, though. Prune the Product Tree places more explicit emphasis on time and on the infrastructure needed to realize potential futures. Innovation Ambition Matrix focuses more on markets and provides a more explicit means to explore “transformational” offerings that would require different or new technologies.

    What we’re learning as we and our customers apply frameworks is that each framework enables us to understand a complex problem from different perspectives. We also appreciate that each framework allows different members of the team to contribute in ways that match their expertise and experience.

    What’s are your favorite frameworks for strategic planning?


    Let us know what you think. 

    Add your comment below.

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