Intuit is a software company with 8,000 employee’s worldwide that develops tax and financial solutions for consumers, small businesses, financial institutions, and health-care organizations. I spoke with three members of the Intuit team that were key in driving Enterprise 2.0 within the organizations:
- Roy Rosin- VP of Innovation
- Jenny Spadafaroa- Web Evangelist
- Tad Milbourn- Product Manager, Intuit Brainstorm
Intuit really started dabbling around a few things in the E2.0 space around 2005. At that time there weren’t any clear business drivers that were pushing them forward; instead it came out of curiosity. In 2005 Intuit was running WordPress internally that allowed employees to start their own blogs. At around the same time Mediawiki was also deployed which was mainly used for managing projects. Eventually however, Intuit started run into problems around innovation; which was their core impetus for E2.0. The challenge for Intuit (and many other organizations for that matter) was how do you actually turn ideas into outcomes? Intuit also wanted to see a much higher success rate for projects that they deployed while being able to make innovation more efficient and visible within the organization. Intuit realized that what they needed wasn’t an idea collection tool but an idea action and management tool. Intuit needed a way to connect ideas to the right people who can best shape those ideas, help them overcome inertia, and capture value with them.
For a 10 year period from ’93-2003, Intuit develop 54 new offerings or 5 per year, each one took around 12-13 months to come to fruition. In 2009 alone Intuit did 31 new offerings, meaning the average time to market dropped by around 60%. This was due to the E2.0 initiatives that Intuit pursued. How was Intuit going to manage this innovation? By shifting their Focus on the future of growth.
Some teams at Intuit had an email problem, meaning too much email was being sent by the teams to each other; which is another reason why they decided to try the WP blog. The blog really helped decrease the amount of email that the team sent. The blogs slowly built up a readership that extended beyond the immediate team and got much wider input from the rest of the company which was a benefit that they didn’t think about originally. It’s also important to note that since Intuit is a software company, tools are much easier to deploy since so many employees are familiar with technology.
What’s interesting is that employees at Intuit were already collaborating using tools they had at their disposal BEFORE any corporate initiatives were put into place. Facebook was used heavily by those that were recent college grads. They found that tools outside of the company were more effective at finding information than tools inside the company. Intuit hired a group of around 12 students out of college that were set up on a “rotational development program” for the company. That group of 12 used Google docs, blogs, emailing, Facebook, and IM extensively. Within the company, similar tools were not as easily available.
One particular area that Intuit saw could benefit from these types of tools, was innovation. As a result the Intuit Brainstorm platform was built, it emerged as one of the projects within the Intuit innovation program…imagined by the recent college grads to help innovators move their ideas forward. Brainstorm started early 2007 and was originally based around a few proofs of concepts (rough mockups, prototype built in an all-nighter session) around 2007 that got peoples attention and showed people potential. Then, in 2008 Intuit started full scale building; that was the point that Brainstorm was officially adopted and resourced, as it did demonstrate the ability to connect people across all the normal information silos – functional, by business unit or geographic – to improve ideas and get them moving. There was lots of experimentation going on around the company in various places so people really didn’t know about the various initiatives. Google made the point that innovation is fundamentally a collaborative exercise, and collaboration requires visibility.
The big pain point around innovation was being on the front lines of a company and not being able to move ideas forward. There were just too many steps that people needed to go through. Ideas happen all the time but then what do you do next? The problem was not only what do you do next but what do you do first? There was an internal idea database but it felt like a black hole because it really was. Leaders weren’t getting the information they needed to make the decisions that they needed. So from the start the idea database wasn’t a good platform, ideation was being choked off at the start. Thanks to the Brainstorm platform anyone can now contribute to help an idea move forward, and along the lines of an on-star system, help comes to the people or teams who get stuck.
Intuit has moved into a more nuanced view of resourcing. Employees get unstructured time (around 10%) to spend on new ideas and innovations. Even without that dedicated time, Intuit realized that you have to build a culture of innovation where people can experiment… you may not be able to resource everything, but can you give employees 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months to draw mockups, create prototypes or spin up a V1 to put in front of customers. Brainstorm came about during this “unstructured” time. The employees involved built a screen shot demo. It wasn’t active but you could look at the images and then click them to be taken to another image. Over the course of the year it was built out. This caused a shift from people dabbling around Brainstorm to having a dedicated engineer for 3 months. Once the platform was build Intuit started by inviting folks on their innovation mailing list, 100 people then people played around with Brainstorm, tested it out, and shared it around the company. Within two months Brainstorm was in use in almost every Intuit location. Within four months, senior leaders shut down the old database and pointed it to Brainstorm. The #1 thing that allowed this to happen? Instilling a culture of innovation and experimentation.
- Didn’t really start out with a clear business driver but from curiosity.
- Problem revolved all around ideation and getting ideas to actually come to fruition.
- Time to market for new offerings dropped by around 60% as a result of E2.0 efforts.
- Recent college grads helped spur the new ideation platform, Brainstorm; because that is how college grads are used to communicating with each other.
- The #1 thing that allowed E2.0 happen at Intuit was instilling a culture of innovation and experimentation.