Digital Co-creation is the New Standard for Innovation

Main visual : Digital Co-creation is the New Standard for Innovation

Multinationals, banks, hospitals: the way in which all of these organisations innovate is drastically changing. True innovation does not originate in closed-off labs. It happens in all parts of a business and across organizations in digital arenas. Here, innovation is more dynamic and a whole new dimension is added to the word ‘co-creation’.

Co-creation itself is nothing new. People have been working together to create things for years in some form or another. What is new however, are what we call ‘digital arenas’. These are organically grown digital ecosystems where parties from different industries and across traditional boundaries combine forces to deliver better products and services as well as more personalized experiences.

These digital arenas are hyper-connected, collaborative and open. It is similar to the API economy where software developers build networks of digital services on open service platforms. A real world example is how the Dutch airport Schiphol recently decided to share certain business data with the outside world through its API platform. Many organizations do the same by enabling third parties to build digital services with their APIs. And whilst they center on people, IT plays a key role in digital arenas.

The role of IT

When it comes to IT, there are two delivery models that can work side by side. The traditional model provides robust IT services based on traditional infrastructure and virtualization techniques with development using the waterfall method. The new delivery model provides ‘fast’ IT services based on Agile, Scrum, DevOps and modern principles such as pay as you go, software defined data center, cloud native application development, and anything else as a service. Sometimes, these two models are referred to as the ‘old versus the new world’ and seen as mutually exclusive. This is incorrect. The ‘old world’ is still here, still required and able to exist in parallel with the ‘new’. Increasingly organizations are adopting such hybrid models as they embark on their transformation journeys. The concept of hybrid IT calls for good architecture control that provides space for innovation and new technology on the one hand whilst working to develop and unlock the power of existing systems on the other.

Getting to the digital arena

There are three levels at which digital transformation projects take place. The lowest level is small-scale innovation where you digitize a product or service through the classic development cycle of ‘idea, prototype, test and evaluate’. A higher level is reached by placing technology at the heart of the organization. This creates a hybrid digital business platform where IoT, AI, mobile, cloud, analytics and security are key. The highest level is where we see digital arenas. Here, value is created together with partners – bringing together technology and different expertise for the greater good. This approach usually contributes directly to the company’s mission or social and sustainability goals.

A good example of co-creation in a digital arena is the innovation that the Dutch Slingeland Hospital achieved with Fujitsu using sensor technology. The clinic uses smart patches, wireless measuring equipment and sensors under mattresses. Caretakers can assess any patient’s situation on their mobile devices and respond quickly and accurately. Hospital staff get better insights into the condition of their patients, which enables them to improve care. It’s jointly built to benefit the patient, healthcare workers and beyond.

Your digital transformation

But what does this mean for you? How can you adopt this sort of thinking in your digital transformation to ensure it is a success? The first step is to think about your vision and what you’d ideally like to achieve. Rather than more of the same or small tweaks, why not aim for something that is truly disruptive to your own business model or perhaps for the whole industry? Remember to take a look at the opportunities and odds, not just the threats. When you have a clear vision, start to customize the business model and see if you can leverage the power of a digital arena to innovate around relevant business and customer needs. The third step is to implement the digital corporate architecture on which social innovation or business innovation is being developed.

An architecture for innovation

Innovation manifests differently nowadays with a much faster journey from idea to launch. Based on minimal viable products (MVPs) and quick validation with customers, multiple ‘go/no-go’ decision points arise and shape the end solution almost in real time. This way of working (Lean Startup) prevents something being delivered that no longer meets the quickly changing customer requirements. Behind this there needs to be a dynamic architecture based on fabrics (software) and bricks (physical components) to enable us to build MVPs that are agile and adaptable. This is useful as an approach for setting up innovation within corporates.

Today, IT equals business – we’re all in the technology industry. Which is great because digital technology ultimately enables people to build a safer, prosperous and lasting world. At Fujitsu we say we’re building a Human Centric Intelligent Society. Humanity is central in this future society with algorithms and autonomous robots working to make our lives easier. These machines need us as they themselves lack the intuition, emotion and creativity that makes us human. In this digital society, thanks to interconnected digital arenas and co-creation, organizations are increasingly able to innovate and make the world a bit better.

NOTE: This has been adapted from a Dutch article first published in CIO Magazine © ICT Media, The Netherlands.

Pascal Huijbers, CTO Large Accounts EMEAI
Jeroen Mulder, Senior Lead Architect Fujitsu Netherlands
Theo Wakkermans, Head Architecture & Pre Sales Consultancy Fujitsu Netherlands