Guest Blog: Building the Right Partnerships for Innovation

Mark Jones

15 May 2019

What are the benefits of collaboration between big players and smaller companies? Mark Jones, MD Health and Public Sector Digital for our partner Accenture, writes a guest blog for us answering these questions. 

It is not controversial to accept that we inhabit a tech and strategy ecosystem in which the ‘big players’ offer scale, depth of experience, and a level of oversight and safety. On the other side of the coin, start-ups and scale-ups, not limited by size, work at the cutting edges of innovation – they are able to be agile, flexible and speedy. The ideal, then, is to join forces – to pool the good and the best of each, to build diverse and diversely-talented teams that better address the challenges faced across the public sector.

At Accenture, we already do this – working hand in hand with our large alliance partners – including Microsoft, IBM, AWS – as well as smaller, younger players such as Qlik, UIPath.  Additionally, I spend a great deal of time developing our SME and start-up ecosystem. As an organisation we have historically invested significant levels of time, resources and money in FinTech, HealthTech and are now doing the same in GovTech through our partnership with PUBLIC, working with companies and agencies that offer innovative products and skillsets. We recognise that the fourth industrial revolution will be powered by diverse supplier ecosystems and we need to be prepared for that.

A multi-way partnership

We cannot be market leaders across the board – but we are adept at scanning the horizon for innovation. One of our main areas of focus is to help our clients more effectively tap into innovation, test it and then help them scale it so they see a real return on their investment. As the need to deliver end-to-end service transformation and properly unlock the power of digital and technology increases, such ecosystems will become significantly more important.  

But this is not a one-way street. While we are looking out for interesting start-ups and SMEs who are offering something transformative to the public sector challenges, things can also work the other way around. We want small organisations to speak to us – to use our capability and weight to leverage focused innovation into broader, bigger solutions.

Here is an example. Storm ID is a small digital agency based in Edinburgh, employing around 85 people and offering a range of services from digital service development and marketing to data and cloud strategy. Small, yes – but Storm ID have significant experience in digital health, so when we were presented with a very interesting challenge by one of our health clients – exploring how consumer-wearable tech data could integrate with clinical data sets – we called them in as a partner. Their knowledge allowed us, during the discovery phase, to expand the scope of our work. With them, we built a prototype that would allow our client to visualise the user journey and better understand the complexity involved in delivering something compelling to users in future phases. 

A place for everyone

It is neither question of the large government contracts being awarded to the big players, nor the smaller ones – depending on which side of the fence you find yourself. We want to nurture more partnerships with start-ups and SMEs. Together, we want to encourage our clients to ask better questions. Instead of simply looking at new pieces of technology, we aim to open out the conversation in order better to understand the real problems and to find new and effective solutions: good quality plus good service that securely addresses citizen needs.

True, big fish like Accenture can have a reputation for being ‘hard to crack’: the size and complexity of the organisation make it hard to know which doors to knock on. But when we get it right we create powerful teams by partnering with the big, the middle sized and the small. This kind of marketplace engagement is an ideal. It allows us in partnership to ask the right questions and turn the priority from price and outputs to value and outcome.

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