What is our primary use case?
The team I'm on within our company does corporate planning and strategy. We're the innovation team within that world. Initially, we thought more of our use cases would be around getting idea submissions that would ultimately lead into our portfolio projects for long-term strategic purposes. What we've found is that it's harder for most coworkers to identify some of those. Unless we're sponsoring a challenge ourselves, the overlap is low for that.
So instead what we've focused on more are two things. One is cultural impact, and the second one is business segment goals.
When it comes to cultural issues, we've done challenges around workplace culture, around specific events, or with front-line workers, specifically in our call centers, who've been using Spigit almost as an empowerment tool. They can voice and bring up solutions to challenges that they're facing. So they've run a couple of challenges within these workgroups on how to make it easier to do business with us or increase customer loyalty. So those are business segment challenges, in part.
But the biggest benefit of it has been that these coworkers, who for the most part are in really difficult, high-turnover positions, are feeling very empowered to offer suggestions and see them implemented by leadership. So it has a dual purpose. We are looking to do more business segment goals in our own segment that would fit us as well.
The second aspect has been on the business segment goals. We have found that partnering with business segments or department groups on specific challenges that are aligned with their specific strategy or short-, medium-, or long-term goals, is very effective. We help support those, even though the solutions or input aren't things that my team really touches. But if there's good alignment, it can be a very effective tool.
How has it helped my organization?
Spigit Planview is a big part of how our company is trying to promote and foster a culture of innovation. It's helping with changing the norms and making coworkers feel more empowered to suggest solutions for all sorts of problems they face day-to-day. When they do it successfully through a challenge, they can see how that can translate into results and into appreciation from their leadership, and they can take that mentality to all aspects of their work.
At this point we've had hundreds of ideas submitted, largely from the business segments, and they have implemented more than 100 of those ideas. The challenge winners or challenge ideas — sometimes they weren't declared winners — that have been implemented have resulted in customer value, new revenue, or cost savings that are real to our customers and to us as a company.
We have a portfolio project that we manage, and investments that we manage, and R&D that we manage. This is a little bit different than that, although sometimes it seeds in. The biggest thing is that this is a central part of our cultural goals and objectives. Using crowdsourced ideation and Spigit is a big way for us to achieve the cultural goals we have.
In terms of increased employee survey scores in our organization as a result of using the solution, we have had improved engagement scores that we can track through it and compare coworkers who have gone through a challenge with those who haven't. There tends to be an increase in both innovation in surveys that we've done and in employee satisfaction in generic components that we're looking at. It's a little bit tough to scientifically declare that type of thing causally, but we do have some good evidence to suggest that it has been a factor in improving metrics. There are several ways we measure it, but the positive satisfaction increase is around five to 10 percent on average. For example, a survey that had a 70 percent positive score might have something like 77 percent in the next year. Some of those small increases actually are pretty meaningful.
If we take a broader perspective, beyond our immediate team — because we have not done very many challenges ourselves — there has been an increase in innovation in general among our internal customers who are using Spigit. We have seen that the pace of project startup, funding, and completion is much faster for things that are proposed in or are winning these challenges; sometimes four to five times faster.
What is most valuable?
I like the flexibility in it. The majority of our challenges are traditional, time-bound challenges, where we do the submission, the crowd-validation component, expert review, and then the pairwise. Each one typically runs a week to two weeks so you have a month to month-and-a-half long challenge. Those tend to work well for us. They're easy to communicate. We can get materials and leverage resources that we've used in the past to make that pretty smooth.
We really like some of the functionality to have faster-paced challenges or do pairwise-only challenges. It could be something where you have a prioritization list, where you have ideas or solutions and you want a group to prioritize the most important aspects; or you really just want people to submit ideas and then rank them. It's neat to have a tool that can take a group of senior leaders, submit something to a quick challenge that takes them five minutes, and then they rank them and prioritize them and specify the pairwise during a break later on in that meeting and it's done. Whereas some challenges last a month or two months with very high engagement and more time on them. I like that the tool is flexible for that. That is probably the most valuable part for us.
The solution's dashboards and reporting have two purposes for us. One is for our own group, since we house and support Spigit across Ameren. We do a lot of benchmarking and reporting to see how well our metrics are stacking up. We use the solution's reporting mechanisms for that, and they're automated to easily generate them. That works tremendously well, creating very little work per project for us. Our group uses the standard stuff where we're getting the number of visitors, number of ideas, number of ideators, etc. We just plug and chug that into a metric that we use. And it compares them to past challenges and to benchmarks.
And then there's how we present the information to the challenge sponsor, to the executive sponsor, or the executive group sponsoring challenges. Typically, they're looking at it from a different perspective. They do like to know how their results compare to other ones we've run, or to Spigit benchmarks. But usually they have their own things that they're looking for. Sometimes the leaders are more interested in how many ideas are generated. Sometimes leaders are interested in how many people engage. I like that we can very easily generate reports, or take results and put them into our own formats if needed, to present them to all the different types of stakeholders very easily.
Usually, the sponsors of new challenges don't care for the granularity in the reporting. We provide it to them but they're usually more interested in diving into particular aspects of engagement. Sometimes that means they want to know which types of coworkers participated — whether they're front-line or managers or directors. Sometimes they're more interested in who submitted ideas but not necessarily who voted or ranked. It's really easy within the tool, after listening to what they want to get for feedback on, to generate a report, on the spot very quickly.
Spigit's functionality helps us to prioritize and select the best ideas. The one caveat with that is that "best" is usually a subjective term. What's neat about the platform is the transparency so everyone can understand. There are clear rules on what it takes to move from phase to phase. Things get communicated through the tool or individually, and that creates a lot of power. What's often tricky for coworkers is when they don't know what happened to the ideas they submitted, in general, or why an idea gets acted on or not. They can say, "Hey, my boss didn't want to do my idea," or, "I'm upset about it."
What's neat about using Spigit is that they can see why ideas are doing better. In pairwise, the coworkers themselves are judging them. Some people might still think some aspect of that is unfair, or they don't get it, but it's very clear: This idea had a higher percentage of thumbs-up to thumbs-down than that one did. It was more broadly well-received and that's why it got selected. That type of transparency is really important.
What needs improvement?
It's a little tricky to say what can be improved in the solution because a lot has changed recently and we haven't run a challenge recently enough to look at the last iteration of the platform.
When we have feedback for them about an issue, what we find is that either there are solutions or easier ways to do it, things that we just need to have explained to us, which Spigit's team is great at doing.
Things that are identified either by us or others that end up needing updating, or bug fixes — when we tell them it would be easier or be cleaner if X, Y, or Z happened — they're great at receiving that. We find that those are almost always changed in the next couple of months or within the year.
For how long have I used the solution?
This will be our fourth calendar year using it. We've had it for two-and-a-half years. Our team is pretty small, so we don't have a lot of people to manage different aspects. I know a lot of clients of Spigit have somebody who manages it full-time. We don't have that luxury. We've run a couple of larger challenges per year and a handful of smaller ones each year as well.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
There are times when some of the system aspects move a little bit slowly, but that's a pretty minor complaint. For the most part, those are things that we see behind the scenes as administrators or moderators of challenges. Once challenges are going out to customers or being used by coworkers, it's really straightforward and we haven't run into any bugs.
There have been a couple of times where, on our end, we've put in the wrong default email settings and things happened that we didn't intend to happen, but that's more on our end.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The nice thing is how flexible it is. We can run very small challenges. We can run very large challenges. We haven't had a company-wide challenge but we hope to have one this year. We can run a challenge within a day, with several features, or we can run a challenge over two months or an always-on challenge. We can have different goals, whether they be about culture, workplace improvements, business solutions, or strategic issues. We're almost always coming up with different ways we can use it. There hasn't been anything that we've thought up, a use case, that we haven't been able to do. We really feel no limitations on how we can scale it.
We do intend to continue to scale it. This last year we had some of those intentions. The roles and the number of people in our team were in transition last year and that complicated our ability to use it more. We've been very deliberate about it because we wanted to have these initial challenges go well to prove it out. If we had more resources we'd be running many more challenges, but we will definitely scale it and intend that each year there will be more than the preceding one.
How are customer service and technical support?
Spigit's technical support is really excellent. They are so responsive to us, both in how fast they respond to us and in the completeness of their replies. They're transparent around how long things will take. We've never had an issue where it's taken time to get solutions or made it so that something is not working well. They're really an A-plus across the board for us in their support.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We didn't have a tool as such. There were people who used a generic suggestion box or tried to have some sort of business case or ideation-type sessions or goals, but never through a structured software solution. That aspect is definitely new for us. The need and the desire to do these types of things is certainly not new, but we haven't had anything equivalent to this.
How was the initial setup?
In terms of Spigit itself, the setup was very straightforward. There were some issues and complexities within our company that were not Spigit's fault. But overall, it was straightforward.
From the point that we set up the installation and did single sign-on it did take two to four weeks, but most of that was due to issues and processes on our end. Almost everything was instantaneous from the Spigit side. It has an "Apple" approach where, when you open it, you understand how most of the functionality and features work. With just a little bit of guidance or training, and the videos that we watched, we were up and running really quickly.
We worked with our Spigit team to put together a strategy for how we thought it would best deploy across our organization. We met with other utilities and similar customers and talked about how they use it, to share best practices and put together a list of which segments in our company would be the best clients, initially, for using it. We scaled it from there. We've been a little slower and deliberate in increasing our engagement and in who we're reaching out to and the types of challenges over time.
Our team is really small so we can't dedicate full-time to any of this. This is a smaller part of what we do. That has slowed us down a little bit internally; it has nothing to do with Spigit itself. Even though we're in our fourth year, we're still thinking about how we're scaling the solution to make it more sustainable and hit more of our coworkers. Spigit has been an awesome partner.
For deployment and maintenance of Spigit we just use our team of two full-timers and some part-time people here and there. We spend somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of our time on it over the course of the year, meaning a very small percentage of an FTE. That is also why we haven't been able to scale it to more challenges over time.
Setting up a challenge, depending on the meetings with the sponsors, usually happens within four hours. That's how long it takes to get everything that we typically need to build them, in addition to whatever meeting time is necessary. Even when a challenge is running, usually the moderation is done by a team within the challenge area. Our team supports that but doesn't have to be hands-on or full-time at all. We've been able to use it very well with the limited ability of our team to support it in terms of overall hours. We would like to give it more time, but it's been hard to fit into the structure of our team.
What about the implementation team?
We did almost all of it ourselves. We shared the first one and had Spigit go through some of the process with us, to talk through some of the issues or to ask them questions by email.
They helped to create templates for us. Since we're comfortable at this point creating challenges, we're pretty much self-service and it's easy. The added benefit is that if we run into any issues or are looking for shortcuts or improvements, it's one call or email and they'll talk us through it really quickly. We talk with them more about general solutions and strategy than anything specifically to do with the challenges themselves. It's been really good.
What was our ROI?
We haven't made a major attempt to do an ROI calculation, but everyone has agreed that the value that it offers more than makes up for the cost of it. Some of that comes through the business solutions and the scaled projects and challenge suggestions. But the majority have a less tangible, cultural impact. While they're hard to quantify, they're certainly above what we pay for the service.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We did a pretty big search among different solutions. We have probably looked at a half-dozen or so of the large players in this space that have similar offerings.
Our evaluation was based on price on, customer support, and quality of service. We felt, and still do feel, that Spigit is the clear leader in the crowdsource ideation space. It is a leader within our industry for energy and utilities in particular. We have a lot of peers who are using it very effectively. We feel that we benefit from the community of Spigit users who are very cooperative and engage frequently. We've been very pleased with it and feel that the value that we get is excellent and that they are very competitive among their competitors. Spigit continues to be the gold standard in our eyes.
What other advice do I have?
Using it, we've confirmed the power that crowdsourcing ideation has to generate ideas and the benefit that has for corporate culture. But the most surprising thing that we've learned is how important it is as an empowerment tool, particularly for front-line workers. I gave the example above of call-center employees who have a very difficult job, relatively lower pay than the majority of their coworkers, and tougher hours and conditions. For coworkers like that, for whom it's hard to bring up concerns or issues, a tool like this creates an equal and clear footing and very clearly asks them to contribute and share their experiences and ideas. It makes them much happier to be a coworker here and more valued as a person. That was the most surprising outcome to us. We knew that it would be culturally important, but we didn't realize how that empowerment, at a personal level, would really translate.
It's always good to create tools that allow more coworkers to engage in innovation and problem solving. Creating tools that empower coworkers and make it more the norm to share ideas and to think about new solutions, is incredibly valuable. We think that Spigit does it better than its competitors. If you're looking to do it, the service that they offer is tremendous. They have a great staff, great support, a good product, and a great network of peers to collaborate with as well.
It does take a little bit of moderation, typically, to combine ideas or sometimes remove an idea if it's truly a duplicate. We have talked to other Spigit customers about best practices around how to address that. There are certain challenges where that's more of the issue. For example, one of our challenges — even though we only had around 300 people as our target audience and, of that, we had 60 percent of people participate — we ended up with 127 ideas. And when there are so many ideas, it's really impossible for everyone to read all the ideas before they submit. In challenges with a lot of ideas, we tend to have duplicate ideas.
Initially, we didn't know what to do with those. But we've used the moderation features to combine, join, or delete ideas. One thing that has been really helpful is that before coworkers submit an idea, they hit a click box indicating that they understand that if the idea, or a similar idea, has already been submitted, it might be merged with another idea or removed. That avoids the issue of, "What happened to my idea?" or, when an idea wins, of "Hey, why did that one win when I submitted the same thing? What happened to mine?" That's been really helpful. There is no way to fully automated that because you do need to use some human moderator judgment to determine how similar ideas are.
The process of consolidating duplicate responses from employees doesn't affect our administrative overhead very much. It's really just during the idea-submission phase which, typically for us for a fast challenge, is a day, but usually more like a week or two weeks.
From our six main challenges we've had, respectively, 30 ideas submitted, 127, 123, 72, 53, and 27 ideas submitted out of an audience that has ranged from 2,000 to 3,500 visitors. So we've had a good ratio of visitors to ideas. But because these are still relatively small groups — we've only done one group larger than 600 people — we have ended up not having a huge number of ideas per challenge. So it's relatively easy for the moderators to check a few times a day, quickly, to see the ideas. And they really just need to look at the new ideas submitted since they've already seen the previous ones. Not all of our challenges had duplicate ideas. It really doesn't take much to manage it.
Of those visitors, we have around 70 to 75 percent of them being active participants on challenges, on average. It has run the gamut across different business segments for us. We've used it within our transmission company, we've used it within our experience group, we've used it across our whole IT organization. We've used it in our business and corporate services organization. It has been used by everyone from presidents of companies down to the front- line workers, and everyone in between.
We're particularly looking forward to being able to turn these ideas around and implement them straight into our Planview solution, which is part of the reason why we switched to Projectplace to do that. It's very easy within the tool to manage ideas through the different processes and generate reports. For internal customers who are running a challenge, it's very easy to give them either a PDF or an Excel sheet with the ideas for them to manage in other solutions, if they don't have the Planview solution or don't want to continue using it. Because of the ease of taking those ideas and continuing to use the Planview tracking and resources, or to do so in another setting, we've been very pleased.