Helping businesses benefit from digital technology
Singapore is a nation that is pushing hard to build its digital future.
The Singaporean government has taken an active role, supporting the nation’s businesses and companies to embrace the efficiencies and growth possibilities made possible by emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analysis.
The response to this urging has been strong and enthusiastic but enthusiasm alone will not be enough to guarantee success.
While many businesses display a willingness to wade into these new spaces there are not always sufficient levels of knowledge or competency for them to do so with confidence.
It’s especially true for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who often lack the resources to run detailed analyses of the opportunities and risks associated with specific technologies. They sometimes find it hard to know where and with who to get started.
At the same time technological innovators and vendors often have an incomplete understanding of the business problems they could be helping to solve. Experience and context is needed to allow them to better target their innovations and make products work in the real world.
It's not always easy for businesses and technology providers to work together to create new mutual value. It requires trust.
For these reasons the Singapore Government has established the Open Innovation Platform – a way to connect and facilitate partnerships between businesses with hard-to-solve problems, and technology providers who just might have the answer.
The platform is an initiative of Infocomm Media Development Authority.
ThinkPlace is supporting the program as a design thinking facilitator.
As part of the platform, we’ve been working directly with businesses and technology solution providers to help them engage with one another, and find what works.
We’re working with a variety of Singapore businesses across areas like construction, insurance, food, retail and sustainability. Using design thinking and other methods, as well as our extensive and diverse consulting experience, we’ve helped them make sense of what they’re seeking to achieve and how to engage the world of technology effectively.
HOW WE DO IT
The OIP is a strong platform for matching and catalysing business and technology partners. It’s based on a model, where businesses construct a design challenge around their problem, and offer a prize to the technologist that can best tackle it.
The process starts with problem framing. Together with IMDA, ThinkPlace works with businesses to help them refine their problem statement, ready to be published to the platform.
Some businesses have a very clear idea of the problem (having dealt with it for years) and we help them to put it into language that is clear for a technologist. With other businesses, we help clarify intent and craft the problem statement that they want to put before a techno
We use human-centred design techniques to ensure that requirements consider real world human needs and context. At other points, we’ll explore the system-level view, walk through critical business processes, and consider business risks. Once we’ve reached clarity, the agreed-upon ‘problem’ is then uploaded to the platform and the IMDA shares it with a global pool of thousands of tech providers, to generate a shortlist of interested parties.
At this point, we support IMDA and the business to evaluate potential solutions, and prepare the businesses to effectively interview a chosen few solution providers.
Once a partner is selected we help the business and technology providers agree to the terms of the design challenge, and the KPIs they are to meet in order to receive prize money.
Next, we assist the business problem owner and technology solution provider to design the solution. We bring in years of design experience to create a proof of concept or prototype (depending on the terms of the challenge) that is effective, efficient, ethical and provides a great user experience.
This project provides Singapore’s businesses with critical support from an independent trusted ally who can help them navigate a process that is absolutely necessary but often nervously engaged with and potentially fraught with risk.
“What they’ve really appreciated is our independence and our real commitment to trying to understand and address their specific challenges,” says ThinkPlace Singapore Managing Director Bill Bannear.
“It’s a great thing to have the confidence that you are buying something that is really going to help your business, not just being sold something shiny that you’ll regret investing in six months from now.”
For the technology solution providers, the program has opened up new business opportunities and a platform that makes it easy to co-create valuable products. The partnerships from OIP are already creating a portfolio of new business products, powered by emerging technologies, that will scale across the region.