We recently received the following question from a potential client:
We’ve been considering using a forum to manage our employees’ ideas. Why should we switch to Idea Spotlight? Can’t we just use a forum?
That’s a great question and there are several good reasons to switch from a forum to idea management software.
First of all, forums are not about idea management, they are a tool specifically designed for very limited communication. The key difference between Idea Spotlight and a forum is that our platform is specifically for developing ideas as the central reason for communication.
Because of that, forums allow for no general feedback of anything submitted. Users literally post text and receive text. There is no way to gauge, unless all of your employees regularly post and clearly identify whether they agree, or every post contains a poll that everyone votes in, what ideas are most popular. And you, as administrator, don’t have an easy way of seeing what activities are generating the most response, being developed, or getting positive or negative reviews without doing a lot of administration.
Not to mention, forums will not give you an easy option for approving, rejecting, and completing ideas. To generate a similar system within a forum, you’d have to agree on post title formatting, when to close or lock posts, when to sticky them or when to post them as announcements because forums are just not set up for idea management. You not only have to come up with this system itself, but trust that the employees you have will be able to remember and stick to it.
Secondly, forums are notification excessive. All users have all new posts marked new until they view them. While most forums allow you to receive email notifications if you decide to follow a thread, the initial system is still set up with the assumption that all users will want to read all of the posts. Idea management is about managing ideas and that comes with the understanding that our administrators and users may not want to read every single item posted to the system. Our sharing functions as well as the ability to “follow” certain ideas and “unfollow” them if and when they don’t apply allows for a manageable workflow that makes sure that you see what you want.
Thirdly, forums require a certain learning curve, not only for you but for your users. More people may be online and using computers now than ever before, but that does not make the majority of people technologically literate or intuitive. Most individuals, unless you’re working for a specific technology sector, will have to adjust to the ins and outs of a forum. For example, forums often use BBCode in place of rich text, something that very few individuals will automatically understand how to use. As administrator, forum management tools can be cumbersome and difficult to sort out. And if you want to whitelabel a free forum, finding out how to brand it yourself is going to take time and energy.
Idea Spotlight works like a social network. It has many of the functions that people who aren’t necessarily tech people understand like Following, Liking, and Voting. Moving around boxes on your dashboard involves a simple drag and drop. Not to mention, we have an extensive help desk and support team that free and paid forum options are likely not going to have. If you decide to go with a free forum option or one installed on your company website, you’re mostly on your own. Not only with administrating your users, but with design, function, etc. Everything. Even if you understand how to do it all, it’s a time consuming nightmare that may just not be worth it for a system that’s not even designed to manage ideas any way.
A fourth and final point is that, Idea Spotlight is intuitive where forums are not. Your administration dashboard is functioning for you, not only in you being able to customise it how you want, but it also keeps you up to date with what your employees are saying and thinking. At a glance you can see what ideas and challenges are generating the most buzz, getting the most votes, and really developing into viable ideas. You can see which employees are providing the most ideas, the most feedback, and with the ability to mark ideas as complete, you always have an easily reviewable record of your idea process.
Maybe you could track popular ideas on forums by looking at what posts have the most response… so long as your employees stay on task with discussions and don’t delve into quibbles on the forum about who was on Celebrity Big Brother or who ate someone else’s lunch in the fridge. Maybe you could keep track of all of your posts and have a way of marking them to show they’re complete… provided you established a clear process for administration that your employees have to learn. And once you lock a post, no one can comment on it any more. Maybe you could mimic some of the functionality of Ideas Spotlight within a forum, but it will still be a forum, it will be a huge administrative task, require more management and employee time on learning the ins and outs, and it would likely come with very little or no support from installation to customisation.
Idea Spotlight is an innovative, ideal solution for companies that really want to take ideas and make them into realities and in order to do that effectively, you truly do need idea management software. Anything else will be a sub par solution that will yield sub par results.