We envision a future with information and data as the biggest driver of continuously increasing social and economic value. We seek a pivotal role in this change and believe in significant opportunities of the future data-driven world.
“He who controls information controls the world!” - Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5 (1994)
Firstly, rest assured that we’re not trying to control the world through information and data here at the Data-Driven Businesses (DDB) unit of Tieto. What we are doing, however, is striving to bring value to the end user by visualizing data in a way that enables meaningful analysis and agile reactive capability.
I work as a front-end web developer at Tieto’s DDB unit. The daily challenge I face at work is how to visualize data, be it from our own hardworking data scientists or external sources, in a meaningful format so that the average layperson is able to rapidly extract value from it. Before I joined Tieto (roughly four or five months ago) I worked primarily as a front-end web developer, with a focus on UI and UX. I never worked with data as such, and had little idea upon joining the DDB unit exactly what sort of thing I was going to be facing. Fast-forward to four months later - I now have a good sense of what kind of data is meaningful to the end user. This is insight that I’ve gained from constructing internal and external prototypes for demo/showcase purposes. That’s not to say that I’m a know-it-all or anything. I’m well aware that there are still plenty of issues to solve when it comes to data visualization. So, let’s talk data, shall we?
What makes data so special?
On its own, data has no value. The value of data lies in how you interpret it and the uses you put it to. Merely possessing the data amounts to nothing if you don’t understand it or apply it appropriately. As a front-end developer, the big question I face on a daily basis is: how can I make data easy to understand to as wide a range of people as possible without it losing its meaning?
How does DDB tie into all of this?
Here at DDB we engage with startups that work with data or whose business revolves around data. Remember, using data in the right manner can reap huge benefits. For instance, Tieto’s headquarters is based in an Intelligent Building (IB) that provides us with all sorts of information. One of the coolest aspects of this is that the building shows me exactly where my colleagues are. I don’t have to call them when they’re in a meeting or doing important work – and vice versa. We can just catch each other when we’re both free. This is a perfect example of how judicious use of data can increase the quality of daily life.
In the same spirit as our use of IB, we are passionate about engaging with startups and helping them to build something awesome utilizing data. While it’s easy for big companies like Tieto to experiment with various tech innovations, it’s exponentially harder for a startup to try different things. There are constraints on funds, and limited access to certain data.
Access all areas
Here’s where the DDB unit comes in. Our key offering is access - access to data, customer databases, experts, etc. We spot the gaps in startups’ ideas and we fill in the holes, but crucially we don’t wrest away control. At the end of the day, the startups are still driving the car; we just provide all the spare parts to make sure everything runs smoothly.
So, what’s the main takeaway? The DDB unit is an integral part of Tieto, but it still retains autonomy. This is exactly how we envision the partnering of startups with Tieto. They have access to Tieto’s assets, while retaining their individuality. Our data, and how we interpret and visualize it, is there to steer the course; but it’s their hands on the wheel.
Getting a business idea from the drawing board to reality can be a long and complex process, and startups will need to overcome many hurdles along the way. Therefore, it's crucial that innovative entrepreneurs are able to access the support and coaching they need to succeed.
However, when it comes to progressing an idea from initial thought to profitable business, what do startups need to know? I often speak with companies in the very early stages of development, and what I've learned is that it's vital to understand as early as possible where the potential lies, and how real-world progress can be measured.
Don't fail fast, learn fast
One phrase that has become a bit of a buzzword in the startup scene in recent years is 'fail fast, fail often' - the idea that innovative businesses should not be afraid to experiment, to try new things that may not work, as long as they can do it quickly and move on. While this is a good approach, often startups tend to forget and misunderstand where the real focus is.
Yes, failure will intrinsically and inevitably be part of that process, but what's really important is how you react to it. Making sure you capture the right lessons from a test is much more important than simply saying 'that didn't work, let's try something different'.
This is something I try to emphasise when working with startups, and it's a mindset that has to be in place from the very earliest stages of the development process. If you're not taking the right lessons from every step along the way, you're going to have no idea if the concept you're working on actually has any real value. Startups focus should be on 'learning fast' to be able to grow.
Understand customers problems first
The truth is that customers don’t care about your solution, they care about their problems.
That's why right from the start, we place huge importance on making sure that ideas are validated.
The first thing you need to do when looking to progress your ideas from initial concept to a practical business model is to get out there and talk to prospective customers to validate your assumptions.
These conversations will determine whether or not your vision is actually in line with the demands of users. If there's no pressing need for a product, it doesn't matter how innovative it is, it's unlikely to succeed.
What we advise startups to do is to go and talk with who they think are their customers. They need to observe them in their real-world context, interview them, and figure out if this is really a problem they would be interested in being solved. Based on the findings, this may alter the solution you propose, or you may have evidence that your concept is a solution customers might care about.
Measure your progress
One thing that is important to remember is you can't rely entirely on what your customers tell you, as often, what people say and what they do may not always match up. For example, I've done research in stores where I've watched how people select certain products. When speaking to them afterwards, they often find it hard to explain exactly why they made a particular decision, and asking them questions such as 'were you aware you physically picked that item up?', many didn't even realise.
That's why it's so important to have your customers interact with your product as early as possible and build the solution to learn from qualitative and quantitative data. This way, you will be able to visualize and measure your customers journey to fully understand what your customers do and why they do it.
At the heart of this, we use five key measureable metrics to gauge the progress of a startup - acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and referral. These need to be tracked closely as you keep developing your product, as the numbers will be the key proof that there is a genuine need for and interest in whatever you're offering.
For example, if you're looking to learn how many customers are interested in your idea, one way to do that is by measuring how many visitors sign up to your website within a week.
This not only gives you a great potential customer base to work with, it gives what you're doing much more strength, as you can point to each week’s numbers to demonstrate that customers are showing real interest in what you do.
Of course, these numbers only tell part of the story. Talking to the customers behind these numbers is equally important to understand their actions.
An idea only has value once it can be proved it is worth something. You need to go out and talk to customers, test it and then validate your assumptions. Ultimately, the responsibility is on the startup to conduct these activities and make sure they learn how to grow the business.
Read about Tieto Data Incubator.
Innovation Coach, Tieto
Corporations are in a need to find new ways to speed up their clock-speed and take input from the startup world for innovation. Both sides have their own strengths. When corporations have resources, existent customer base, processes and industry knowledge, have startups fresh ideas, agility, will-power and growth-minded attitude.
So isn’t this something where both players can only win and how to play this corporation-startup game in Europe? Our Tieto Data Incubator team visited Barcelona’s incubators to share ideas around it.
Incubator co-operation to innovate under the sun of Barcelona
It’s not only about working together with startups. It’s also working together with other players in the ecosystems; customer, partners and other incubators. When we work together, we not only learn from each others but we can improve us and our support to startups to maximize customer value. This is also a way to see that no good idea is going to be wasted - to see that good ideas get best support and opportunities. That in mind we visited this month two top-notch incubators also in Barcelona - Incubio and Startupbootcamp.
Startupbootcamp is a global family of industry-focused startup accelerators driving innovators and startups forward from all over the world. There is no one key to success, but their very intensive and structured program to go forward seems to work. Their success rate measured by companies still operating after their program is impressive. “It is not just teaching them but it is to find a way how to implement a business model canvas. Crucial is to truly implement what you learn during the program. You need to be ready to change the path if needed. It is about to shape and reform the idea. If it does not make sense you need to be ready to change - learn and implement.” says Angel Garcia, Founding Partner Lanta Digital Ventures and Startupbootcamp IoT-Data & Cybersecurity.
Another great example is Incubio, corporate venture incubator, operating in an very exciting space in old dog racing stadium Barcelona Greyhound Track which has been now reformed to arena for startups and innovation. As data-driven incubator they focus also on data - taking data and turning it to business and value. The methodology they use to help startups to grow and success has a flavour from lean startup and agile methodologies. It has been fine tuned and iterated during their 6 years operating time to a very well working process which have even flavour of gamification for their startups presented Simón Lee, Managing Partner and Chief Designer at Incubio, to us during our visit. Watch video greeting from Taneli Tikka, Head of Innovation at Tieto and Simón Lee, Managing Parter at Incubio.
Scale up your data-driven start-up with a corp-up
Corp-up term is seen to be used in "corporate" and "start-up" collaboration. Studies also support the view of benefits of corporation-startup co-operation. “From an innovation perspective, the ultimate objective is to validate promising initiatives and selectively scale them up in order to adapt or even renew the existing core business. Startups, alike, show a rising interest in collaborating with corporations, rather than only trying to evolve under the umbrella of primarily value-oriented VCs.” The Age of Collaboration, Match-Maker Ventures and Arthur D.
In Tieto we launched own Tieto Data Incubator last autumn. As Tieto’s head of innovation Taneli Tikka says “Having an idea is one thing - harnessing it is quite another. Tieto Data Incubator’s focus is on data. In many cases, the data needed to achieve this transformation already exists, but the challenge for many businesses comes when they try to tap into this potential and turn it into real, exciting initiatives that can change the way we look at the world.There is an ocean of possibilities out there, but businesses need the right support and expertise to make the most of it, and this is where we at Tieto Data Incubator comes in.
What do startups get then? One example we have used in our vision is that you can imagine that your data is a formula car, and your business is the driver. If you’re skilled enough, you can do incredible things with it, getting it up to amazing speed and taking your company to the next level. But a car and driver on their own isn’t a racing team. You need support from a huge number of people - mechanics to get it up and running, logistics and engineering experts to build the parts and get them where they need to go, even caterers to make sure everyone’s well-fed and ready to perform. There an incubator can't drive the car for you, but we can make sure you’ve got everything you need to make it hit its top speed.
Data in the heart of innovation
The need to digitise your business and innovate with new technologies available is clear, but this is often easier said than done. It requires a major culture change and a deep understanding of every part of an organisation in order to be successful.
Clear is that no-one can do it alone. We need to do it together. Together with corporations, startups, accelerators, incubators, universities and other organisations.
It was pleasure to visit Barcelona. Big thanks to our wonderful hosts Simón Lee from Incubio, Angel Garcia from Startupbootcamp and Oscar Sala from Strands. Same also to our talented Tieto Data Incubator team: Taneli Tikka, Marc Salas Martínez and Fredrik Ring.
If you have a data-driven idea or you would like to know more about Tieto Data Incubator visit tieto.com/incubator and get in touch.
Pirjo Virtanen, Marketing Manager, Tieto