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Master's Thesis Alexej Utz

Last modified Dec 2, 2016


Innovation has a tremendous impact on companies and society. The ability to innovate is considered as the most important growth driver and a key requirement for competitiveness. Rapid technology shifts and short product lifecycles necessitate continuous innovation, that is characterized by a high complexity. Mastering that growing complexity is a tough challenge, that many organizations struggle to overcome. Managing innovation is therefore a risky and difficult task. There exists a variety of process models for that purpose. Many of them are based on the stage-gate process that applies process-management methodologies to the innovation process consequently adding structure and increasing transparency. However, the widely adopted stage-gate process introduced in 1990 is unable to meet modern challenges due to its rigid nature. The constantly changing market environments and customer preferences dictate new requirements for organizations. Nowadays they must feature agile and flexible business processes and structures. Therefore, a new-generation of the stage-gate process was introduced. It provides flexibility and supports adaptability in the innovation processes.

The main goal of this thesis is to develop a prototypical solution for the innovation process at one of the leading software companies in Germany, while the last generation of the stage-gate process provides the basis for implementation. Apart from the specific requirements requested by the cooperation partner, the required features include comprehensibility: business users without prior modeling experience must be able to modify the process. Another key requirement for the tool is the ability to apply changes during the run-time of the system as opposed to design-time modification. Furthermore, collaborative capabilities are intended to foster creativity and increase productivity. A prototypical implementation with regard to these requirements is presented and finally evaluated together with representatives of the cooperation partner.


Problem description

The innovation process at DATEV is implemented by the means of two custom applications. They complement each other but have significant drawbacks, which encouraged DATEV to consider a new integrated solution for their replacement.

The first tool titled INITIATIV implements the early stages of a rigid stage-gate process (Cooper 1990) displayed in the figure below.

Employees use it to submit their fully developed ideas and get a reward in case of approval. The tool  utilizes an outdated technology and does not provide flexibility, which is considered as a key requirement for innovation processes.

The second tool deployed by DATEV to support the innovation process is called DATEV Idea Pool (DIP). It focuses on discussion and collaborative generation of ideas and allows operating departments to purposefully collect ideas on specific topics. The major drawback of DIP is represented by the missing integration with other tools.

The lack of integration between INITIATIV and DIP poses a serious hindrance to the innovation management at DATEV. Futher, the insufficient flexibility of the stage-gate process realized in INITIATIV does not always allow users to do what is actually necessary. Therefore, a flexible integrated solution is required.



The solution is based on the case management approach that allows to support unpredictable and unrepeatable processes. Instead of following a predefined sequence of actions, case management relies on the process patterns that can be reused and adapted to specific situation in order to facilitate process execution. The process model for the integrated process defined by the means of the Case Management Model and Notation (CMMN) is displayed in the figure below. 

The implementation is based on a  research prototype that follows the approach of adaptive case management (ACM). The solution includes the specific data and process model of the integrated innovation process. The data model is defined by the means of attributes derived from INITIATIV and DIP whereas the process model resembles the concept presented in the figure above.


Core literature

  • Robert G Cooper. Stage-gate systems: a new tool for managing new products. Business horizons, 33(3):44–54, 1990.
  • Patrick Link. Agile Methoden im Produkt-Lifecycle-Prozess – mit agilen Methoden die Komplexität im Innovationsprozess handhaben. In Komplexitätsmanagement in Unternehmen, pages 65–92. Springer, 2014.
  • Keith D. Swenson. Mastering the Unpredictable: How Adaptive Case Management Will Revolutionize the Way That Knowledge Workers Get Things Done. Meghan Kiffer Press, 2010.