After KPMG highlighted the firm’s relationship with Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam at a recent analyst event, TBR requested a follow-up discussion to better understand how the innovation team at the arena had been excelling at many of the key characteristics TBR has identified in consultancies’ and IT services vendors’ innovation and transformation centers around the world. TBR met with Sander van Stiphout, the arena’s innovation lead, and Wilco Leenslag, the KPMG partner leading his firm’s efforts with the arena.
Framed within the context of TBR’s recently published Innovation and Transformation Centers Market Landscape, three key elements of van Stiphout’s work at the arena stood out
Trust is crucial
First, the arena’s innovation team works with external clients on a subscription basis, a business model rarely deployed by consultancies and IT services vendors. The arena’s clients, which include startups and enterprises testing new technologies and means of enhancing the customer experience, have to fully trust the arena’s innovation team will deliver value for the investment they are paying in subscriptions. TBR believes this business model may be directly related to the unique nature of an arena but could be replicated by a consulting firm or IT services vendor that is willing to bet on collaboration consistently leading to valuable, and deployable, innovation.
Make your pitch and test your tech
A second key element that stood out was how the Johan Cruijff Arena serves as a test bed in multiple ways, benefiting the arena’s clients that are startups and the arena itself. Startups not only test their technology solutions in a real-world environment with continuous access to all the variables found in any sporting or entertainment event, but van Stiphout noted that startups also pitch the solutions to internal operational professionals at the arena. For example, the arena’s marketing department must approve a marketing solution prior to testing, enabling startups to pitch and refine solutions with a real-world client before taking it to other clients.
Innovations, particularly from startups, often stall when they meet real-world requirements and clients making investment decisions beyond prototypes. By creating a stage for startups to test run both their product pitch and their product, the Johan Cruijff Arena innovation team helps these companies overcome that innovation roadblock. Additionally, this prototyping method helps to overcome issues associated with the traditional engagement model of working with clients’ innovation departments on pilot projects. Specifically, TBR often hears of emerging technologies becoming “stuck in pilot mode,” a challenge that we feel is directly related to the sheer number of ecosystem participants that are required to scale a solution after proving its value to a client. With the arena-led engagement model, ecosystem entities must first work together ahead of a live trial in the arena, addressing the issue of scaling before testing, not after.