• Enterprise Innovation: At Home in Denver

    Back in the late 1990s, as dot-com technology evolved and digital storage overtook paper archives as a means of “big data” collection, businesses started to think differently about innovation. With the advent of new technology, innovation became more than a buzzword; it became part of a new paradigm for automated data-driven processes to bring more successful new products to market.

    An entirely new industry – new product development software – emerged as a must-have for the world’s biggest innovators, and Denver would become “ground zero” for the growth of this new discipline.

    Innovation management begins with these questions:

    • What if instead of reacting to rapidly-evolving business trends, companies could anticipate, model and execute business transformations related to product innovation?
    • What if companies could innovate based on specific market opportunities and trends rather than as competitive “me too” endeavors?
    • What if there were a way to make big bets on innovation without making risky assumptions?

    As the market for innovation software began to develop, a few Arvada-based programmers connected the dots and started to build browser-based software that automated well-established and proven processes for bringing winning products to market. The idea was to automate an already well-adopted process (Stage-Gate®) that created a series of guideposts, using available business data to predict the accurate cost, timeline and market success of a new product launch. These solutions became an industry standard during the dot-com crash of the early 2000s, when companies faced severe financial setbacks and grew frustrated with years of product development trial-and-error.

    Then, a new wrinkle emerged: a desire to expand the scope of new product development software to include long-term planning and roadmaps, execution within strategy, portfolio management and more. Innovative businesses sought a single source of truth that would guide not just product development, but a much broader innovation process.

    Fast-forward to 2019 – today, disruption is the natural order of business. Nearly every industry, from consumer packaged goods to heavy equipment, has been shocked into going digital; embracing speed, agility and innovation as a bet-hedge against upstarts and disruptors has become the norm. When it comes to innovation, smaller operations can be nimbler and less risk-averse than large enterprises, forcing the world’s leading brands to find a way to capture that same flexibility and speed to market in order to stay competitive.

    Today, the innovation gap between upstarts and established companies is closing rapidly, thanks in part to a greater understanding of the business of innovation itself. Now that companies have access to real-time performance data tied to growth strategies, all in a single platform, innovators can have better visibility and transparency across the enterprise and make better, faster decisions related to new product development, execution of strategic initiatives, development of technologies and infrastructure to support growth, and much more.

    Many large companies that have grown through acquisition have inadvertently created functional and information silos. This meant they moved slowly, and that was okay when the market moved slowly. But today, slowness and silos are a major reason for new product failure. Large organizations don’t have to be disconnected, and with greater transparency comes greater efficiency. By marrying strategic planning with operations and execution, while keeping data, people and systems tied together and visible to the entire organization, large enterprises can be just as disruptive as small, agile upstarts.

    For example, let’s look at Denver-based Leprino Foods, the world’s largest maker of mozzarella cheese and a family-owned enterprise with a firm commitment to innovation. As consumer tastes continue to change, companies like Leprino need to stay on the cutting edge of product development. With consumers turning to healthy, sustainable, organic and unprocessed foods as part of a more balanced lifestyle, food companies can suddenly feel caught off-guard by shifting market whims. Leprino implemented innovation management technology to guide their research and development process and model new product concepts.

    Leprino Foods is just one example of how innovation process management can allow a large company to behave like a disruptor. Across multiple industries – including industrial manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, aerospace and more – companies are realizing real value by making innovation an enterprise-wide discipline and cooperative function rather than a silo owned by product development, R&D or upper management.

    Which brings us back to Denver. To this day, the Denver region is leading the nation in high-tech job growth. Our company has expanded its Denver presence every year since we established ourselves in the market, and we are on pace to hire another 15-20 more technology professionals this year alone. The benefits of having a technology company in the Denver area are magnified by a robust and well-connected tech community, excellent quality-of-life for employees and a deep talent pool of highly qualified technology professionals.

    The Mile-High City has long been a place where great ideas come to life. There’s an inventive “vibe” to the region that is somewhat intangible, but also incredibly beneficial for tech companies. That’s why innovation management software is very much at home in today’s Denver business environment; the track-record of ingenuity, deep talent pool and lively business climate has and will continue to pay dividends for technology companies dedicated to innovation.

    About the author

    Paul Heller is chief technology officer for Sopheon, a global leader in Enterprise Innovation Management (EIM) solutions including software, expertise, and best practices. Mr. Heller has been leading technology strategy and product development at Sopheon since Sopheon was founded. The company’s technology operations are based in Arvada, Colo. Contact him at