Shikko Nijland

Boundless thinking within the digital domain

INNOPAY consultants are working on the future of digital transactions on a daily basis, driven by their vision that everything is becoming a transaction. Everyday, they help their customers with challenges such as: how can we provide access to our data while keeping control over it?  How can we reinforce our trust relationship with our customers by using digital technology? And how can we apply open business models when our organisation is still structured in silos?

To answer these questions, INNOPAY consultants meet regularly with different parties across different sectors. They provide both one-on-one advice and utilize a process of co-creation based on a 'collaborative approach'. The latter is something the firm is known for worldwide. INNOPAY is being asked to manage complex co-creation projects in countries such as Australia, Switzerland and Luxembourg and off course in The Netherlands. This has already led to many successful initiatives such as iDEAL, iSHARE, iDIN and the development of the next generation public transport chip card (OV-Chipcard).

CEO and managing partner Shikko Nijland answers our questions so we can discover what differentiates INNOPAY from the rest and sheds light on the secret behind their unique collaborative approach.

What differentiates INNOPAY from other consultancy firms?

“If you are working on innovations in the field of digital transactions, it is crucial to understand all aspects of this world well. This knowledge concerns three domains. You must understand how the technology works; you must have business accumen and you must understand what the legal and regulatory implications are. Picture these three domains as  three circles that partially overlap. If you are a only specialist in one domain, you do not have an overall picture of where the circles overlap. That is why we find it extremely important at INNOPAY that our consultants are highly competent in all three areas. This is how we train them as well. Of course, one consultant knows more about legislation and the other has more knowledge of technology, but our consultants all advise on the same level in the field of digital transactions. That is quite unique for a consultancy firm.”

And what makes your method distinctive?

“Our working method stems from 'digital maturity'. The operation of an organization must move along with the developments in the digital domain. Many companies believe in the 'win or lose' (zero-sum) mentality. They often work within their own organizational boundaries, adopting the 'competitive advantage' as the vantage point. Within the digital domain and in innovation, there are almost no borders left. Digital maturity therefore also says something about the extent to which an organization is truly able to operate without the traditional organizational borders and is able to actually embrace open business models and leverarage the total wisdom of their ecosystem. The starting point in our approach, is the creation of 'collaborative advantage' in which the manner and depth of cooperation in the ecosystem ultimately determines individual success. Take blockchain as an example: you cannot do anything useful with it alone. Boundless and non-zero-sum game thinking is in the DNA of INNOPAY and this has led to the 'collaborative approach' where the focus is on creating opportunities and possibilities for cooperation in the ecosystem. We are convinced that this is the only way to get the most out of digital technology."

Can you expand on the collaborative approach?

“In our world of digital transactions, the speed and degree of adoption of the solution or service determines who will be the winner. The goal of the collaborative approach is to let companies work together intensively to guarantee adoption at an early stage. We do this in a process of co-creation. An important aspect of this is that people have to learn by experiencing that nothing comes of cooperation if everyone puts their own interests first. I usually explain this using a cake metaphor. Everyone can do their best to get the largest possible piece from a small cake. You can achieve much better results if you first jointly determine how to make the cake as large as possible. For this, it is essential that all parties adopt the common interest as a vantage point instead of pure self-interest. If everyone believes in cooperation, then it will be a success. In other words, sufficient support and commitment from all parties is crucial.”

How do you ensure sufficient support?

“For this, it is important that the parties involved come to the right conclusions themselves. Our job is to make this happen. We can tell them how they can create the largest possible cake, but then the parties will not necessarily come to the right and shared insights. Then there is also a tipping point in the process where individual interests re-emerge. At such a moment, we refer to the cake again. Sometimes it takes a while for the parties to realize the importance of putting their self-interests aside, but at some point, a critical number of people within the group do come to this realisation. They then typically correct and convince others. This, of course, has a much more powerful effect than when we try to do this, as a facilitator. Other consultancy parties may keep a much tighter hold on this process. We tend to let the process take its course to a larger degree, creating more room for joint further exploration and in-depth discussions. Based on 20 years of experience, we know that the effect is much greater when people come to these insights themselves.”

How do you ensure that parties come to the right conclusions?

“We can let people come to conclusions themselves because we understand all three domains of digital transactions so well. This enables us to point out the implications of certain choices. That is why we always give our opinion on the content in discussions. So, this is not about guidance or process management, but about us speaking their language and understanding what the outcome should be. That is why we dare to allow much more flexibility in the way of co-creating. After all, this helps the group to come to the right insights. This in itself ensures that all parties believe in the outcome and that the co-created content will also be used." 

What are the most important success factors of the collaborative approach?

“It is very important that we work with decision-makers. After all, if they continuously need to consult their own stakeholders to reach a decision, it would cause enormous delays in the process. It is also important that people have sufficient knowledge. Moreover, we demand a bit of commitment from all involved. It is important that they free up enough time to attend all sessions. The process ultimately takes a lot of time and is not without obligation. These are hard requirements that we set in advance because they are the most important factors for a successful outcome. In addition, it is important that parties are open to achieving digital maturity. We do point out in advance that, it's to be expected that there will be a point where, different visions will clash. For us this is a natural development and is necessary for the cooperation process. Everyone understands that you sometimes have to diverge before you can converge. Therefor we always put a lot of efforts in establishing convincing willingness of the participants to commit to this process."

Can you give an example of the outcome of the collaborative approach?

“iSHARE is a good example of a typical INNOPAY project. We were asked by Topsector Logistic to develop and realise a Scheme via our collaborative approach. In iSHARE, we have actually built up a network around data sharing, bringing together different parties who do not yet know each other today, but want to be able to do business in the future. It is not a platform for sharing data; we have ensured that every organisation can build and implement the connector box  to the network themselves and can start sharing the access to their data. People then manage and control access to their data via a user-friendly toolkit. Via our collaborative process, a representative group of logistical companies came to agreements on all major topics, by co-creating all required technical and functional standards, the business model and  a legal model that describes the rights and obligations of members. These agreements are the core of a framework and as such, every participant must adhere to them.

There is a lot of demand for Trust Frameworks or schemes. We currently do projects like this in the construction, energy, financial, insurance and mobility sector. As far as we know, INNOPAY is the only consultancy firm in the world that has been involved in the realisation of so many trust frameworks and schemes. That is why INNOPAY, a relatively small Dutch firm, was asked to create a trust framework together with the seventeen largest banks in Australia." 

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This interview first appeared in Dutch on consultancy.nl

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