Qmarkets Capricorn

The Road to Innovation: Capricorn’s Idea Management Journey in the Automotive Aftermarket Industry

Cooperation. Collaboration. Mutual support. These are important qualities at any organization, but at Capricorn they have a special significance.

Founded in the mid ‘70s by a handful of Australian service station owners working together to increase their purchasing power with major oil companies, today the organization is a 27,000-strong member-based cooperative supporting businesses in the automotive aftermarket industry in Australia and New Zealand.

Just over a year ago, Capricorn launched its first ever idea management platform, with Qmarkets software as the engine. The new program fuels innovation at Capricorn in a way that perfectly aligns with its cooperative principles – by asking its people to share their ideas and work together to bring them to life.

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Leading the program is Adam Kaye, Capricorn’s first dedicated innovation manager in the organization’s 50-year history. I recently caught up with Adam to find out more about Capricorn’s innovation journey and what they’ve achieved so far.

The Need for Innovation at Capricorn

The small businesses that comprise Capricorn’s membership operate in the automotive aftermarket, which comprises repair shops, parts manufacturers, and other companies that do their bit to keep cars and vehicles on the road after purchase.

One of the main drivers of innovation at Capricorn is the ever-increasing complexity of the modern vehicle. More parts are becoming software-controlled , and the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) has introduced its own set of radical challenges. Further down the road, the automotive industry is revving up for the era of the autonomous vehicle, so the market is only going to get more complicated to navigate.

Capricorn’s challenge is help their members adapt to these changes and thrive. "Around 80% of our membership only has two employees", says Adam. "Many of them are a husband and wife team. To become a Tesla-approved repairer, it costs several hundreds of thousands of dollars. These tiny businesses probably don’t have that capital, and they’re asking themselves: ’Where’s my place in this future?’. We believe that that they do have a place in the future, and that they will continue to be absolutely integral to it."

Industry changes run deeper than the vehicles themselves. Business models are evolving, as manufacturers seek to own more of the value chain through subscription models and other services, and customers’ expectations are higher, whether it’s for same-day service or live notifications as their cars are repaired.

Together, these shifts present a substantial and ever-evolving set of challenges for Capricorn and its members that can only be overcome through innovation.

Choosing Qmarkets’ Idea Management Software

An idea management platform presented a logical solution to Capricorn’s challenges. Not only would crowdsourced innovation align perfectly with the organization’s cooperative principles, it offered a way to bring together its multinational and widely distributed team of 500 employees; many of whom are out there working in the field.

For Adam and his team, involving employees in the field was essential. These are the people who spend more time than anyone else with their members and have developed a close understanding of their needs, pains, and worries.

Capricorn Home page
CAP Innovate: Capricorn's idea management platform powered by Qmarkets

Features to engage users and offer flexibility to the way they participate were critical. As well as being able submit ideas and enrich others’ with links, videos, and other media, Adam wanted users to be able to use this type of content to launch their own campaigns.

And yet, Adam wasn’t sold on the concept of idea management software in general. "It’s fair to say my previous experience with another idea management software vendor wasn’t great, and in all honesty I went into this project unsure if it was the right thing for us as an organization", he says. "But let me just say that Qmarkets has completely changed my opinion."

While other software providers had told Adam that they only work with companies of a certain size, Qmarkets impressed him with their response when they requested proposals from the market: “The clarity and the detail they came back with, as well as all the policies and documents they provided which I didn’t even have to ask for – they really set out their stall”.

Qmarkets really values the customer and they bring you into the process transparently from the start. Alex, our customer success manager, has been with us every single step of the way. Qmarkets is a gift that keeps on giving!

Setting up the Process

With Qmarkets software chosen to power the program, the next step for Adam and his team was to configure the process to gather ideas and move them through a stage-gate process to implementation. The process itself is pretty simple. Idea campaigns are divided into categories.

Engine 1: Core Business Innovation

Capricorn believes that Innovation is a team sport and can be applied to every aspect of the business.  Engine One is the home of campaigns for employees to submit ideas around their own day-to-day roles relating to marketing, finance, or whatever department they work in.

Once Engine One ideas are submitted, others can get involved by voting for their favorite ideas and enrich them through commenting. Ideas then go to an initial review by the innovation team, in which things like strategy alignment, complexity, and business value are taken into consideration. Ideas that make it through this stage then go in for a more detailed evaluation from a relevant expert in the business before a green light is given for implementation.

Engine 2: Disruptive Innovation

Engine Two is where a different type of campaign are run. These focus on bigger picture topics such as new business models and revenue streams. The process for Engine Two ideas is largely the same as for Engine One, although the evaluation phase is conducted solely by the innovation team. This flexibility in establishing different processes for different ‘engines’ or types of campaigns is one of the hallmarks of the Qmarkets platform that sets it apart from most of the other solutions on the market.

Ad-Hoc Innovation

One other thing for Adam was important: an always-open campaign where any ideas could be submitted on any topic. “We wanted to show our employees that management is open to any and all new ideas. Having an open campaign for random ideas gives people that space to share their ideas and have their voice heard.”

Driving Awareness & Engagement

The innovation team set an ambitious target of an engagement rate for the platform of 40%, meaning that 4 in 10 of Capricorn’s 500 employees would participate in idea campaigns, whether by submitting ideas themselves, or voting or commenting on others’.

Capricorn didn’t launch their new platform with a big bang. Instead, they kept it simple and relevant, launching with a single campaign tied to the company’s values and how they can be manifested. Employees were required to participate in the new platform as part of the company’s wider values rollout, and in doing so were introduced to the process and the platform’s features.

Key to maintaining ongoing participation in the program is that every single idea gets a response, and that even when ideas are rejected, submitters receive “the nicest ‘No’ they’ll ever have”. For Adam, that recognition and respect for all contributions is crucial to nurturing Capricorn’s culture of innovation.

There was a latent capability in the organization waiting to be woken up, and the platform has certainly been a catalyst in doing that. It’s a powerful tool for engaging people in a creative process and establishing a culture where you’re encouraged to share and express your ideas.

Early Results and Future Plans

One year in, the program is achieving a highly impressive engagement rate of 38.5%, just shy of the ambitious target that the innovation team set themselves, and well above their minimum KPI of 30%.

From the 12 campaigns that have been launched on the platform, 240 ideas have been generated, of which 43 have been implemented already, and another 50 are moving through the evaluation stage. Ninety unique users out of Capricorn’s audience of 500 employees have submitted ideas to date, and 408 comments have been posted across the platform.

Capricorn Reports
CAP Innovate in numbers as of early 2024

One of the ideas chosen for implementation, and that Adam is particularly proud of, is to deliver car parts to members by drone. Capricorn has identified a partner to provide the hardware is currently preparing a trial of the project ahead of a wider rollout.

The team around the product and the support that we've had has been fundamental … not just in changing my view of idea management software but in getting the outcomes that we've had so far.

Capricorn’s platform has hit the ground running and these numbers provide a solid foundation for the next phases in the program’s development. Next on the agenda for Adam and the team is to implement the platform’s integrations with SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.

Enabling employees to participate via the platform’s they use every day is a surefire way to maintain those engagement levels and drive them even higher. Capricorn’s field teams, for example, don’t spend much time in front of a desktop but they do have check-ins every day on Microsoft Teams.

Further ahead on the horizon, Adam plans to eventually open the platform up to Capricorn’s 27,000-strong membership as well as its employees, which would revolutionize the way that the cooperative interacts with and supports its vast network of small businesses.

Despite being written off by other software vendors Adam and his team at Capricorn are showing that innovation management software is just as relevant for SME companies as it is for larger corporates.

Speaking with Adam, what struck me was the passion with which he spoke about Capricorn’s idea management program. It’s all the more the heartening knowing that Adam went into the project with misgivings based on previous experience with other platforms. It’s wonderful to know that we’ve won Adam over and that Capricorn’s program has already seen so many ideas implemented.

His enthusiasm will have been a real catalyst in driving the platform’s high engagement levels, as will the innovation team’s commitment to responding to every idea. It’s an approach that will continue to nurture the culture of innovation already thriving at Capricorn, and ensure that those users keep coming back with new ideas to fuel the program in the future.

To find out how Qmarkets idea management software can drive innovation ROI at your organization, head to our product page.

Charlie Lloyd Author
Charlie Lloyd

Charlie is an innovation strategist at Qmarkets. He started his innovation journey at a boutique consultancy in London, where he worked with some of the world’s leading retail and CPG brands. In his spare time, he’s a voracious reader of crime fiction and an avid supporter of Arsenal FC.

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