In the era of open and distributed innovation, Information Technology (IT) must be leveraged by organizations to reach, record and review ideas from internal (eg. employees) and external sources (eg. business partners). IT can support and enable this process, but only when its roles are understood and when properly deployed. Existing research has inadequately established these roles. Using the processvalue- of-IT lens, we apply a two-step exploratory research. First, the integration process is uncovered; second, the roles and potential of IT are discussed. Three distinct conceptual roles have been identified from the literature review and from interviews in 30 US and European companies that successfully collaborate with externals: Understanding and managing sources, Documenting idea history and source interactions, and Distribution and sharing of ideas. Some of the existing and emerging approaches to support cooperative activities (tool kits, idea management software, wikis) have been considered in context to outline opportunities and trends in the era of open, distributed, and IT-enabled innovation.