Over centuries, the world’s ports have had a crucial role in fuelling the growth of civilizations. They currently handle 90% of trade, but they are much more besides – a global network of ecosystems where ideas and knowledge can be exchanged.

As business disruption accelerates following sharp shifts to online − from working to consumption – a new breed of collaborative ‘phygital’ ports (physical + digital) will be vital to help businesses find and implement new solutions to the challenges heading their way.

Search for growth

This was the case for a leading European insurance company. Facing dwindling customer satisfaction, and low market share in some countries, there was a clear need to search for growth. This challenge was heightened by the coronavirus situation, which threatened to slow down the pace of change further.

In this context, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Pace Port™ Amsterdam was introduced to help. It’s one of a series of innovation hubs designed to help companies navigate growth and transformation challenges. 

TCS Pace Port™ Amsterdam draws on expertise from within and outside of an organization, bringing together key ingredients to accelerate pace of innovation. Source: TCS

TCS Pace Port™ started by helping the insurer sharpen its focus on two specific priorities: protecting its turf and improving market share. Key to both was knowing the customer better. 

Next, TCS Pace Port™ deployed a co-creative, cross-functional and rapid approach to product development − bringing together both input from consumers and expertise from across the company and the TCS ecosystem. 

“This approach allowed the customer to come up with a differentiated product concept in a matter of weeks,” says Lalit Karwa, Head of TCS Pace Port™ Amsterdam. 

Lalit Karwa, Head of TCS Pace Port™ Amsterdam. Source: TCS

“Our constant endeavour is to push our customers beyond their initial boundaries. In this case we were able to help them move from just an insurance product to an experience-enabler, allowing them to imagine how pooling their existing technology and business competencies with peripheral ideas could leapfrog them into new business models − all while the pandemic gripped our lives.

“We unearthed new business models while building that product and wrapped around an ecosystem of partners,” Karwa adds.

“Doing all this in a short time was a challenge. More importantly, making this happen while everyone was working remotely wasn’t easy.”

Part of something bigger

Karwa’s emphasis on ecosystems and partnerships is significant. That’s because the Pace Port™ model provides the ability to harness ecosystems. 

The Harvard Business Review identifies the web of business networks around the world’s biggest companies, like Amazon and Alibaba, as central to their success. 

Indeed, according to Gartner, 79% of top performing organizations take part in business ecosystems. Accordingly, companies − whatever their size − want to tap into these wells of talent and ideas.

Pace Port™ Amsterdam enables this − drawing on the TCS Co-Innovation Network™ (COIN™) model. This comprises partnerships with start-ups, technology companies and regional innovation hubs. 

In addition, Pace Port™ is often embedded heavily in universities, drawing on their talent and, in turn, feeding back ideas into academic research.

“We take the local Amsterdam innovation ecosystem to our global customers,” says Nilesh Patil, Programme Director at Pace Port™ Amsterdam. 

“Likewise, we bring our global innovation network to local businesses in the Netherlands. We look at this Port as a gateway.”

Pace Port™ Amsterdam enables businesses to tap into wells of talent and ideas. Source: TCS

Unique structure

Examples like helping a leading insurer to reduce customer churn, boosting supply chain resilience at a life sciences multinational, and identifying growth opportunities for a sustainability-reporting pioneer, go to the heart of the TCS Pace Port™ model. 

The physical sites bring research, innovation and digital transformation – the hallmarks of the TCS Pace Port™ concept – together under one roof. But everything they offer can be done virtually, too.

Building on the success of TCS Pace Port™ facilities in New York and Tokyo, the Amsterdam site – the first in Europe – is located within TCS’s Dutch offices. What’s inside is designed to make things happen fast. 

Firstly, to generate inspiration, there is an innovation showcase and a technology hub, including 3D printing, augmented reality and machine learning – all designed to stimulate ideas.

“Innovation starts with exploring possibilities and getting inspired. We introduce you to best-in-class stories from TCS, our partners, and anywhere inspiration abounds,” explains Patil.

Teams then move on to a ‘Think Space’, where co-creation between TCS, clients and other stakeholders begins. 

TCS Rapid Labs allows businesses to adopt a unique, fast methodology that accelerates the lifecycle of solution prototyping, from concept to design and development − allowing people to measure the value of ideas without committing unnecessary time and money.

“We make everyone roll up their sleeves and unlock their minds, to generate ideas that blend innovative technology with human-centred design,” says Patil.

A technology hub, including 3D printing, augmented reality and machine learning, is designed to stimulate ideas. Source: TCS

Maintaining the pace

This speed of innovation is not just a choice. Over the past few months, businesses have had to innovate at breakneck speed − in many cases as a matter of survival. 

Many have created agile teams and worked in sprints on new projects, sometimes changing their business models in the process. What has often emerged is better than what it replaces − and firms want to build on it.

For example, from supermarkets in the United States to home delivery companies in China, the coronavirus has driven the adoption of contactless payments. And as McKinsey reports, many new adopters are from demographics who previously mistrusted the technology.

The urgent need for businesses is to maintain this unique pace of innovation − to distil the essence of this energy and momentum. 

“This is exactly what TCS Pace Port™ Amsterdam is designed to do,” says Karwa: “help our customers drive digital transformation by leveraging the power of a global collaborative ecosystem of start-ups, technology partners, academia and TCS research and innovation.”

The greenfield innovation setting of TCS Pace Port™ allows for a fresh working environment, with no legacy systems; as Karwa points out, this “also helps accelerate the pace of change”. 

As the global economy looks for new sources of growth, hubs like Pace Port™ Amsterdam are set to play a vital role. 

Indeed, building on this momentum, TCS is planning more Pace Ports™: Toronto and Pittsburgh are coming soon, while further sites are in the pipeline. Watch this space.