The down economy has many organizations and individuals needing to generate more ideas to stay competitive, move into new markets, and search for new revenue streams. Google Apps and Insightster, an idea management tool available free from the Google Apps Marketplace, can help your team do things like generate stories for agile development, or germinate ideas for new product features or even entire products.

An idea management solution such as Insightster isn’t about executing ideas but about gathering ideas, vetting them, and then making a decision on those ideas.

Use Insightster with Google Apps

While my vision for Insightster and Google Apps is on the project team level, an entire company could use it to generate ideas for new strategies and products to improve the bottom line or their operations. The integration between Google Apps and Insightster enables read/write access to the calendar and read/write access to contacts so Insightster can read a Google Apps user’s contact list during the course of sending invitations.

Manage ideas

Managing ideas using Insightster is a simple process that doesn’t lock you into anything complex or gimmicky that could turn off users who might be cynical toward the whole concept of idea management.

After you integrate Insightster with Google Apps, just send employees to, where they can click on New Idea and then enter their new idea into a simple online form. There is the option to tag entries when the team member enters their idea, it appears on the Insightster home page where they can like, rate, promote, and comment on any ideas that appear on the page. Figure A shows an example of an Insightster home page.

Figure A

Insightster lets you create and collaborate on new ideas as a team or company

Emailing an idea into Insightster requires a user to send an email to an email address customized to your Google Apps domain. Click on Add Ideas by Email under Things to Do and Insightster launches Gmail with your custom address for emailing ideas. The only downside is when I emailed ideas into Insightster it took a while for them to show up on the site.

Where Insightster works well is with the follow up and vetting of ideas. There can be power in turning a team loose on an idea to ask the right questions about it and add suggestions to it leading to bigger things. Every team member who has access to Insightster via Google Apps or through invitation can Like, Rate, Promote, and Comment on ideas posted. There are also options to delete, archive, and unfollow an idea. Figure B show the available options.

Figure B

Responding to an idea on Insightster

Depending on the idea or even the size of your team on Insightster, there is also the option to promote ideas on the Insightster home page. The Promotions feature is like advertising your idea in a side bar on the Insightster home page. Insightster works with only your top three promoted ideas and counts only your active promoted ideas. If you have more than three promoted ideas, you can use the up and down arrows to rearrange the top three ideas you want to promote. (Figure C)

Figure C

Promote your best ideas on Insightster

There are basic management tools for your Google Apps admin that let you invite other users and remove users from Insightster. You can also view team member counts for ideas, likes, ratings, and comments. (Figure D)

Figure D

Manage your team members on Insightster

A nice surprise in Insightster is its integration with Pivotal Tracker, an agile project management app that is covered in Four Google Apps project managers should consider. When you input your Pivotal Tracker API Token into the Pivotal Tracker API Token field, you can import and export stories between Insightster and Pivotal Tracker. The combination of idea management with such an agile project management and collaboration application could be ideal for teams who need more help creating, tracking, and validating stories amongst an agile development team and company stakeholders.

My Insightster wish list

Insightster would benefit from integration with Google Drive to let idea people attach documents to their ideas. For example, a product delivery organization using Insightster could attach Product Requirement Documents and other artifacts such as diagrams or wireframes that detail the idea further.

Another feature that is conspicuously missing is a date and time stamp for ideas. The commenting feature does input a date but no time. While I appreciate the simplicity of Insightster, time tracking tools can be helpful when trying to germinate a new idea amongst remote team members to show engagement and participation.

Google Apps as an idea manager

If you work in an organization that needs a simple easy to use tool to create, centralize, and promote ideas Insightster is a free option worth checking out.

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This is your go-to resource for the latest news and tips on the following topics and more, XaaS, AWS, Microsoft Azure, DevOps, virtualization, the hybrid cloud, and cloud security. Delivered Mondays and Wednesdays