Fostering Ecosystem Co-Creation Around Digitally Enabled Innovations

This post is adapted from an article of the same name scheduled to appear in the Fall issue of Velocity. The post, and the article on which it is based, describe the business case at the center of Arcadis’s 2018 SAMA Excellence Award™ for “Outstanding use of data and digitally based processes to impact co-creation.”

By Carmel Woods

Global Internal Communications and Engagement Manager


Digitalization is transforming the markets in which Arcadis operates, creating uncertainty and opportunity for our clients as well as the account teams assigned to them. Our corporate strategy, released in 2017, reinforces our commitment to becoming the leading digital business in our industry. To get there, we have implemented a number of initiatives enabling our account and delivery teams to help our clients capitalize on new digital technologies. These include:

  • Creating a market-focused “pivot program” designed to ensure early identification of future market challenges for our customers, enabling us to help lead them through those challenges
  • Investing in primary research capabilities, such as our Industrial Capex survey, which allow us to unlock large data pools. Using these capabilities, we are able to more successfully challenge the way our customers make key asset investment decisions and respond to the uncertainty caused by digital transformation.
  • Using technology like Building Information Modeling (BIM) and a new global strategy alliance with Autodesk, we are helping clients better understand their built assets and enhance asset performance.
  • Training all senior account, solution and delivery leaders through the Vlerick Business School Executive Program, an interactive three-day course facilitated by a digital transformation expert, Dr. Stijn Viaene
  • Developing sector and account planning workshops that support focus and lateral thinking on digital opportunity
  • A flagship Deep Orange™ design-thinking sprint process, in which we submerse our clients in an intense design sprint around a specific problem statement while connecting them with specialists and other organizations from our digital ecosystem, leading to accelerated development of digitally enabled solutions

Deep Orange in action: Addressing an airport terminal capacity problem

Experience has taught us that co-creation is key to digital success. Recognizing this, in 2017 Arcadis introduced Deep Orange™, our flagship program designed to help clients navigate, solve and optimize digital uncertainties and opportunities in a sprint environment. Based on a four-day co-creation sprint, Deep Orange applies a human-centered, prototype-driven process for innovation to products, services and business design.

Deep Orange follows a three-stage approach based on key success principles, bringing together account teams, technical experts, digital disruptors, facilitators and, of course, customers.

For one of our Big Urban Cities (BUC) key clients, we deployed Deep Orange to engage a broader coalition of ecosystem partners, ultimately delivering immense value to our client by improving passenger experience, increasing sales from retail outlets in the airport and enhancing passenger safety through capturing and using data to solve complex challenges.  

Our client, an airport operator, is seeing unprecedented growth in passenger traffic.  To meet demand, they are investing heavily in the transformation of the airport by allocating more than 1 billion euros to deliver a new and extended passenger terminal. Until the new terminal is operational, our client’s existing terminals are struggling to meet demand. One terminal in particular is consistently operating above the capacity it was designed to comfortably accommodate, and passenger satisfaction has declined markedly.

Thinking laterally, our client hypothesized that, through technology and big data analytics, it would be possible to more efficiently operate the terminal and better manage the passenger journey, leading to better overall customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, the data on which to build a solution did not exist, so our joint effort to solve congestion and improve passenger satisfaction would need to generate its own data.

Taking up the challenge,  we set out to build a digital prototype to  capture the data needed to fix terminal congestion and monitor occupancy, allowing us to give passengers access to congestion “heat maps” that would both ease pinch points and put control into passengers’ hands.

We identified and selected  ecosystem partners and Arcadis subject matter experts to form a multidisciplinary team qualified to address  the challenge. Team members included relationship-holders, aviation experts from Arcadis, data analytics and insights specialists from Accenture, and back- and front-end designers from IBM.

In outline, the four-day sprint unfolded like this:

  • Day 1: Defining the problem
  • Day 2: Incorporating convergent and divergent ideas, building a storyboard
  • Day 3: Using the storyboard to create an actual prototype solution
  • Day 4: Testing and finalizing the prototype, and preparing for the final pitch presentation to senior stakeholders from the client, partners, venture capitalists and Arcadis.

The results

The outcome of the co-creation sprint was a solution that could be quickly applied to help the customer’s current issues while also being scaled to address future, similar challenges. An interactive heat map/visualization tool immediately improved passenger experience in the problematic airport terminal, easing  capacity issues while giving our client the ability to harvest the data to make better decisions elsewhere in its portfolio. 

Scaling digital co-creation

The success of Deep Orange comes from having a clear, simple process that takes into account the realities of the digital world. The approach focuses on identifying the digital realities that drive value in co-creation from the client’s perspective. Keep in mind that:

  • Customer experience is key and valued.
  • Customers are moving targets.
  • Business ecosystems co-create value.
  • Digital platforms boost value co-creation.

In the airport example above, it was important to understand the drivers of the client’s current issues to help frame the data requirements. Aging airport facilities were limiting the capacity around expansion in passenger numbers and retail, so we looked at how we could use big data in the form of passenger foot traffic flows to understand where passengers were spending their time and the flow of traffic to departure gates and facilities. By monitoring and recording passenger behavior, we have been able to test the hypothesis that the client can control passenger behavior by empowering them to make their own decisions — via the communication of congestion information — and in turn, use real-time data to direct passengers to free spaces, retail units, as well as food and beverage outlets.

The analysis allows us to create a user experience app to show quickest routes, allowing the customer to deal with delays and the impact on certain areas of the airport waiting areas and walkways. The ongoing project with this airport client has produced a series of real-time analytics outputs that allow us to give this data a new dimension. With the help of our data scientists, the insights from the data analysis has driven an expansion of scope within the project and a more ambitious financial impact for the airport. 


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