As our business, social and natural environments adapt to the shockwaves of the Covid-19 pandemic, never-before-seen collaborations between organisations have brought forth incredible advances in medicine and technology. Such innovations wouldn’t have been possible alone. Looking beyond the perimeter of the company to make strategic external connections is fundamental.
It's no secret that secrecy, when it comes to innovation, no longer makes business sense. Innovation doesn't happen in isolation.
When I'm asked what the single most useful bit of advice is for companies trying to innovate, my response is, simply, partnership. Make partnership and collaboration the foundation onto which you build your innovation strategy. Even enterprises with a strong internal culture that promote openness must also look outwards – to the vast array of insights available outside of the company.
It may seem natural for businesses to play their cards close to their chest in competitive markets - but what I always advocate, and what's at the core of NTT DATA's approach, is embodying business beyond borders. And what does that mean? That borders, be they geographic, organisational, cultural or industrial, must be broken down in order to get to the best result.
“The melting pot of a collaborative ecosystem provides the best possible environment for great business and disruptive innovation to occur.”
Creating the conditions for ideas to flourish
How do you establish an ecosystem that opens the door to free thinking and co-creation?Innovation does not manifest without the right conditions prevailing within an organisation. Our aim, as an innovation partner to our clients, is to help businesses create those conditions.
From global programmes designed to assemble the strongest industry partnerships to tackle the biggest challenges, to our ‘Bento Box’ partner programme here in the UK, we create the platform for transformative new ideas to emerge – and become real.
NTT DATA’s Japanese heritage isn’t only evident in our focus on partnerships; across all of our business units, we also consider the potential societal impact of the technologies and practices we’re developing. In Italy, in late 2019, NTT DATA ran ‘Harmonic Innovation Week’, designed to provide the forum for different specialists to come together to tackle social and environmental problems, with priority areas including public services, energy, telco, banking and manufacturing, amongst others. It gave businesses the chance to participate in an innovation laboratory to cross-pollinate ideas and develop their concepts with other companies, academics and thought leaders.
“Businesses that can transcend borders are enterprises that will shape the future.”
Our senior VP and chief technology officer in Italy, Giorgio Scarpelli, explained it nicely when he described our goal as definitively “placing the human being at the centre”, using our capabilities in technology to develop new ideas that benefit the wider society, and “favouring the meeting and collaboration between different subjects involved in the innovation chain to create a new, integrated ecosystem.”
Businesses that can transcend borders are enterprises that will shape the future. The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed both how we do things – with almost two thirds (65%) of businesses reprioritising R&D projects during the crisis, according to research from Innovate UK – and the very structure of our organisations. Moving into the future requires a business mindset that not only recognises but leverages the opportunities from the convergence of technology, culture, diversity and innovation; appreciating that the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.
One challenge for businesses is the sheer amount of data available. With an overwhelming amount of insights, tools and trends, it can be hard to specify a goal, let alone a path to get there.
Bringing together the organisation-wide knowledge contained in pockets of the business and the latest thinking from industry leaders and pioneering researchers, NTT DATA helps its clients navigate the opportunities by acting as a central hub. We can see how the components intersect.
Shared benefits are a key element of the innovation ecosystem. We refer to this as a ‘triple win’ approach: a win-win (great results for the client and us as the partner) plus the knock-on effects for the wider ecosystem, such as our clients’ customers, our industry partners, and even public institutions. This is innovation with purpose: a sustainable future, for company and planet, adds a new dimension to the goals we are all working towards. It’s not just about us.
Looking over the horizon
I believe this interconnected chain of value, from partner to service provider to individual consumer, will prove to be hugely important in business, technology and innovation. This model, known as B2B2X, focuses on creating new services, and new value, for service users and has been driven in large part by the NTT Group.
B2B2X, or business to business to end user, in essence, means ‘helping our clients help their clients’. NTT DATA and its sister companies (the first B) provide new tools to our clients, the service providers (the second B), who – through cross-industry collaboration – create new, transformative services for both individual consumers and companies (the X), with the twin aims of enriching user experiences and resolving social issues.
“Developing the B2B2X model clearly revealed that collaboration with partners, often from unrelated industries, is how new ecosystems of innovation are created.”
Developing the B2B2X model clearly revealed that collaboration with partners, often from unrelated industries, is how new ecosystems of innovation are created. This move away from traditional procurement supply routes, and towards an interconnected value chain of partners, is proving to be increasingly important across all sectors.
We already live in a connected world. Rapidly developing technologies, including 5G and IoT, will soon deliver pervasive (or ubiquitous) computing, that simply becomes a seamless part of our habitat. The idea that technology becomes subsumed into its environment, morphs into a component of an ecosystem, massively resonates with me.
It indicates how foresighted businesses can look inward to identify their needs, whilst being mature and open enough to look outward for partners and collaborators, in order to realise their ideas with world-class tangible products and services.
Our strapline is “trusted global innovator”, because our clients trust that we have their best long-term interests at heart, and that we can help them make these vital new connections.