Turning bright ideas into everyday realities
Crowdsourcing provides an opportunity for enterprises to tap into fresh ideas and sometimes startling insights. Through social media outlets, an enterprise can directly engage with stakeholders to learn how to deliver the products and services customers need to grow and succeed. To encourage candid dialogue, this community experience should make participants feel as though they are walking the halls of the enterprise campus, conversing with experts to have a real impact.
Dell’s own experience with its IdeaStorm website shows that an actively managed community — as opposed to a static online suggestion box — helps bring enthusiastic contributors close to that experience. Community members have seen more than 500 different ideas implemented by Dell on various projects and products. (See the sidebar, “By the numbers.”) These ideas have contributed to Dell’s first backlit laptop keyboard, rack-mountable blade workstations and the form factor of the Dell PowerEdge VRTX converged platform, among many other product enhancements.1
Inspiring fresh insights
IdeaStorm offers a window into online capabilities that are well suited to fostering participation. Launched in February 2007, the website aims to create a broad community of people who post ideas relating to Dell products, services and operations. Participants can discuss and vote on one another’s ideas and help advance ideas they like.
If an idea becomes popular enough through votes and comments, it is assigned to the appropriate stakeholder inside Dell to evaluate and move forward. At that point, the status of the idea is changed to Under Review, and Dell keeps the IdeaStorm community up-to-date on its progress. If the status becomes Implemented, a link is created to the product or service that was modified as a result of the idea. To help maintain the momentum of this process, Dell has appointed IdeaStorm partners, who are Dell employees responsible for tracking and implementing specific categories of ideas that match their own corporate divisions.
Taking new topics by storm
The Storm Session concept helps further boost participation with activities similar to an online focus group. Topics from Dell are posted to a page where the session is open for feedback for a period of time. For example, one Dell department asked software developers what they wanted to see in a laptop built specifically for them. Over a hundred ideas came in right away, some of which were incorporated into the developer edition of the PowerEdge XPS 13 Ultrabook™ system.
A twist on the Storm Session concept is holding joint sessions with other vendors. For example, Samsung partnered with Dell in two Storm Sessions, including one designed to gather ideas around the transition from hard disk drives to solid-state drives (SSDs).
Another dynamic site element enables posters to develop their ideas over time. If participants see an idea they like and think it could be improved, they add a comment. The idea poster can then promote the comment to an idea extension, which signals Dell that the comment should be considered part of the original idea. As a result, many individual contributions evolve into more comprehensive ideas.
Dell recently revamped the IdeaStorm website, including a refresh of the home page that provides community members with at-a-glance views into what’s happening throughout the site. A rotating selection of ideas, sessions, users and Dell participants inspires and deepens engagement. Plus, visitors can track trends that are updated regularly as participants submit new ideas, comments and votes — while another section features ideas that were recently selected by Dell for implementation.
Moving ideas forward
Based on its experience with IdeaStorm, Dell has identified several best practices for crowdsourcing:
- First and foremost, support from senior leadership is critical before starting this type of program, and the organization must be ready to consider all ideas and be genuinely open to change.
- Although enterprises may not be able to implement every requested idea, they can still build goodwill by communicating transparently about why ideas aren’t implemented. An open conversation can lead to a mutually beneficial exchange.
- Finally, crowdsourcing needn’t be limited to customers — employees can be a valuable source of ideas.
For enterprises interested in setting up and running forum groups, Dell Social Media Services offers a range of customized, turnkey services to help spark innovation across the enterprise.
Cy Jervis is the IdeaStorm community manager for Dell. Before joining Dell, Jervis was a top contributor to IdeaStorm, and many of his ideas made their way into Dell products, services and operations.
Dell Social Media Services:
Download a PDF version of this article here.
1 For more information about PowerEdge VRTX, see “Extending enterprise-class capabilities to remote office environments,” by Achmad Chadran and Michael Kimble, in Dell Power Solutions, 2014 Issue 1, qrs.ly/p43tmv3.
Dell, IdeaStorm and PowerEdge are trademarks of Dell Inc.