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The rise of the digital suggestion box

The rise of the digital suggestion box

…And why a Wellington startup for an ‘idea management platform’ is named as one of the 'cool vendors in government' by Gartner

HunchBuzz, A Wellington start-up providing an 'idea management platform' has been named as one of the 'cool vendors in government' by Gartner.

“We are moving the traditional suggestion box from the reception desk to the digital cloud,” says Steve Graham, co-founder and director of HunchBuzz.

“We are born in the cloud, architected for the cloud, he says.

As a Kiwi company, he says this is important so it can deploy anywhere in the world.

He says HunchBuzz will help with the engagement with staff and allows the organisation to listen to “the voice of the frontline”.

But it is critical that organisations follow up and interact, and commit time and energy to the project, he states.

The ‘cool’ factor

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Gartner describes HunchBuzz as a cloud-based social software collaboration platform for governments that provides users with different social tools, including the ability to upload supporting documents to sort, track and prioritise crowdsourced ideas.

“By offering an idea generation and civic dialogue platform, governments can now capture the ‘voice of the citizen’ and staff across the agency, run innovation events or campaigns, crowdsource projects, or survey citizen priorities and preferences,” says Gartner in a report on Cool Vendors in Government that was released last month.

“To solve organisational or community challenges, governments must learn to routinely harvest and analyse the collective intelligence of their workforce and citizens at large. Social software and collaboration vendors, such as the idea management platform offered by HunchBuzz, can be used to solicit and act on the best ideas gleaned from collaborative networks of interested individuals or groups,” according to the report.

HunchBuzz was one of three vendors cited in the report – the others being OpenGov and Vlocity, both based in the US.

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The Gartner report says HunchBuzz users can be both internal and external. Employees can use a single sign-on protocols to eliminate the need for accounts and passwords. Citizens can offer feedback via an integrated widget into existing websites or intranets to collect ideas without having to visit a specific community.

“Providing government with the capacity to elicit feedback from internal staff, partners or the general public quickly and easily for any size organisation that is operational within 30 minutes with minimal training is a best practice for government,” says Gartner on why HunchBuzz made it to the list.

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How do we get more organisational feedback, how do we listen to the voice of the staff, the frontline?

Steve Graham, HunchBuzz

Key lesson: Market validation

Graham is also a founder of Act On Insight. He formed the consultancy after holding executive roles at technology companies including Fronde, Microsoft and TelstraClear.

He says in the past five years when he has been working with Act on Insight clients, he realised a number of them were struggling with innovation models.

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He says the old hierarchical model for innovation was effective for a long time but technology has enabled the creation of “much flatter structures”.

“We started to think about how do we get more organisational feedback, how do we listen to the voice of the staff, the frontline?”

That was three years ago, and they validated the concept by asking customers if HunchBuzz was something they would use.

He says their clients now include local councils across the globe and major government agencies including the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

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MPI started using HunchBuzz in 2013. In a case study on the deployment, MPI noted how everyday, staff see problems and opportunities their managers may not. The agency has more than 2000 staff in over 50 locations and wanted to overcome silos, capture insights and spur innovation across the group.

“It is important to capture these ideas and listen to what our staff are saying,” states Debbie Ward, director planning and business transformation at MPI.

“They are full of ideas for improving productivity, identifying issues and improving customer experience. Basically there are a lot of people within MPI who want to make this organisation a better place to work.”

“Having the ability for staff in unrelated areas to be able to suggest, comment and vote on other staff ideas has been invaluable.”

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Gartner says companies like HunchBuzz face challenges ahead

The report notes HunchBuzz is competing in an increasingly crowded and competitive social software market, offering a standalone product that at the moment is not mainly integrated with other larger systems.

The market is likewise forcing incumbent vendors to offer diversified solutions that include civic platforms including idea generation and crowdsourcing.

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Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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