Not so long ago, an Innovation Strategy Manager at a major vineyard was tasked with finding an efficient system for streamlining ideation. This system would need to be used to overcome departmental communication barriers, as well as drive the innovation that would help protect the company from wine industry disruption. The solution came in the form of an employee innovation hub powered by Qmarkets.
Following the successful deployment of the platform, Qmarkets sought an interview with the Innovation Project Leader at this winery to understand more about the initiative it was launching.
On today’s disruptive business landscape, it’s important for innovative companies to share best-practices and learn from each other to reach new heights. However sometimes it’s also important to remain anonymous and avoid offering a strategic advantage to a competitor. In order to fulfil these opposing needs, we’ve created a brand new blog post format; Innovator Spotlight – Off The Record
Project Background – Understanding Wine Industry Disruption
Qmarkets: Thanks for joining us today. We’re very excited to learn more about this project. Firstly, can you tell us a bit more about your role within it?
Winery: Sure! As the Innovation Strategy Manager, I’m essentially the leader of a “rogue” team within the company that isn’t confined by our legacy processes. So, we’re often tasked with researching, testing, and optimizing different kinds of emerging technologies, and looking at how they can deliver results for the company. Because we’re not bound to the usual channels, we can really afford to be quite flexible and agile in meeting our challenges.
Qmarkets: Before we go into the details, could you give us some background info about your industry and the major challenges within it?
Winery: Well, the wine industry in the U.S continues to grow at a staggering pace. In 2017 alone, around 32 billion dollars’ worth of wine was consumed in America, and this figure will probably reach 43 billion by 2022. What’s more, millennials are estimated to constitute the biggest slice of the pie in a couple of years, and millennials value variety- meaning that more emphasis has been placed on diversifying products.
Because of increasing demand, balancing quality control with production volume planning is a major challenge. When you consider that demand is growing in concert with the rapid advance of technology, upgrading old management software and integrating adaptive business intelligence systems presents hurdles for wineries across the board.
I’d also say that sustainability targets come with their own raft of challenges, though this is true for just about any industry. Our company is a leader in environmentally-sound wine growing practices, and we’ve always looked at the constraints imposed by sustainable practices as a powerful driver of innovation. Overall though, I’d say that wine industry disruption through innovation requires a great deal more effort and resources than many other sectors. When you think about it, the wine trade has been around for thousands of years, so it’s not easy to harmonize a culture of change that spans the agricultural, production, and marketing facets of the industry.
The Innovation Drive – Distilling Genius with Idea Management Software
Qmarkets: So, we know that organizations undertake innovation initiatives for a variety of reasons – improving internal processes, adapting offerings to meet changing customer demands, and so on. What would you say are the most important factors driving innovation at your company?
Winery: Culture plays a big role in stimulating innovation for us. However, I would say that wine industry disruption in general is the primary driving factor. Although we are far ahead of most of the competition in terms of market share, there have been cases where I’ve seen smaller companies roll out ideas I pitched three years ago… My thinking was ‘because we’re so big, we should be on the cutting edge and starting these trends’ not following them.
Qmarkets: How did you previously gather ideas from your employees? What made you interested in idea management software?
Winery: In the past we’ve just had an idea collection form which sent ideas into a spreadsheet, and nothing really happened. There were lots of ideas but no way to execute or promote them. We realized that there were lots of people in different parts of the business that were putting a lot of time and effort into solving the same challenges individually, instead of being able to talk to each other and optimize them together.
Wine industry disruption through innovation requires a great deal more effort and resources than many other sectors. The wine trade has been around for thousands of years, so it’s not easy to harmonize a culture of change…
Qmarkets: There are plenty of idea management software vendors out there offering ways to crowdsource internal innovation? How many did you evaluate and what ultimately led you to choose Qmarkets?
Winery: We shortlisted three main vendors including Qmarkets. In general, we found them to either be too pricey or oriented towards the kind of skill set only a developer would have. We needed something that was user-friendly, but flexible enough to manage a variety of innovation challenges. We also needed a system that that could integrate with our Okta active directory. Qmarkets fit the bill here well.
In the end, Qmarkets was chosen because we found it to be the easiest to follow in terms of a user experience. When the system was launched, I saved myself about 40 hours of user training, and I only put in a grand total of just 10 hours training the project challenge managers. We also chose Qmarkets due to the amount of flexibility it offered, specifically in regard to terminology.
Harvesting Great Ideas – The Innovation Management Pilot and its Results
Qmarkets: What kinds of ideas have you received within the system so far? Has it delivered an immediate impact?
Winery: We’ve received everything from ideas relating to new wines or spirits, to general suggestions for how the how the organization can work more efficiently. There was one instance where the sales organization wanted to know how a particular app could be improved for communications purposes. My response was “let me introduce you to our wine bottling department, who just launched this communication app”. So we’re making our departments less siloed, and getting them to collaborate more. We’re now looking at one vendor that can service 5 teams versus 5 different vendors servicing the one team.
Qmarkets: Was there any kind of pilot before the full implementation? If so, how many users were involved and what percentage of them did you successfully engage?
Winery: Last year, we launched the pilot primarily just for sales across four regions. After that, we were able to clearly demonstrate the need for the platform. We invited approximately 500 users in total and had an engagement rate of 60%, which is huge. That’s one of the highest engagement levels, in terms of a pilot, we’ve achieved with our sales organization in general. Because most of our sales organization moves so fast – and involves team members who work out in the field directly approaching our customers and distributors – they tend to have a low participation rate. The fact that so many were engaged via the use of the Qmarkets platform clearly indicated that it was a perfect fit for our company.
Building the Hype – Internally Promoting the Innovation Initiative
Qmarkets: We know that one of the most crucial steps to success for any innovation initiative is marketing the project internally. What did you do to achieve this?”
Winery: We have used newsletters to promote the project. However, the release has been really successful largely because we were able to get our senior leadership to evangelize it for us. They made videos for us urging employees to get on board. We have even managed to get our sales VP – a very high-ranking member of the company – to appear in one of the promotional videos. I now have directors from all different parts of the business – not just sales and marketing – asking how they can get involved!
Qmarkets: Sounds great. Though it’s always important to have senior executives champion the cause of a new innovation project, it’s success will depend on the ideas contributed by employees. How did you incentivise users to participate in your initiative?
Winery: We found that the brilliance of Qmarkets is that it’s not just something that ‘hangs out’ all year. We have used the system to create effective innovation seasons. For Q1 and Q2, we have regionals. For example, our western region holds its own challenges, with winning entries nominated to the national-level awards.
The national nominees get looked at by senior leadership, who decided who will be announced as the winner at our Best of Innovation Awards, 2018. The overall winner will receive a grand prize. Some departments were incentivized on the basis of ‘who can score the highest number of points via challenges?’ Additionally, we integrated with a well-being platform we used internally called ‘All the Best Points’ which involves participants being able to use the points earned within the system as currency.
Right now, we have a total of 411 ideas – 25 in initial review, 62 in the review committee, 9 approved for implementation, and 10 implemented.
It’s nice to have the simple, streamlined process that the Qmarkets platform offers in place, as we never really had one before. The default process it offers is beautiful.
Uncorking Creativity – Receiving Ideas for Improvements
Qmarkets: Have the ideas you’ve received so far pertained to small-scale improvements (i.e continuous incremental innovation), or have they been on a larger, more disruptive scale?
Winery: I’d say it has been a bit of both. I frequently bring this up when I do a recap with my senior leadership. We have some great ‘nuggets’ of ideas that have the potential to drive wine industry disruption, but they need to be built on and refined to be more specific. We also get smaller ones where I identify if a similar project is already being undertaken, or if a submission would make for a great enhancement for an IT help desk project, and so on. So I’m making those connections and making sure people aren’t doing work that is redundant.
Winery: Not yet. I love that it’s there though, and I will likely investigate it further. It’s nice to have the simple, streamlined process that the Qmarkets platform offers in place, as we never really had one before. The default process it offers is beautiful.
A Fruitful Future – Plans for the Innovation Project Moving Forward
We invited approximately 500 users in total and had an engagement rate of 60%…The fact that so many were engaged via the use of the Qmarkets platform clearly indicated that it was a perfect fit for our company.
Qmarkets: What is the scale currently as far as users go? Will you be expanding a lot in the near future?
Winery: We are anticipating that in the near future the entire winery – over 5000 employees – should be using the platform at least in some capacity, whether it’s lodging an ad hoc idea or participating in a challenge.
Qmarkets: What are your plans moving forward? Are you considering tackling additional use-cases with future projects?
Winery: Yes. Our HR department is already looking into how they can use Qmarkets’ products to aid in our recruiting process. In late 2019, or possibly early 2020, we are considering using Qmarkets to invite our customers and distributors to participate in our initiatives.