STORM CLOUDS project adopted a User Driven Open Innovation methodology  to select the applications that would migrate on the Cloud. During this procedure, the involvement of a number of stakeholders was essential, not only as a methodological requirement but also because the participation of the parties concerned’ would produce helpful feedback for the overall process to be closer to citizens and public employees. Moreover, another reason why this mechanism was adopted by STORM CLOUDS, compared to the selection of applications only by the Public Authority’s technical staff, is the fact that this involvement would strengthen stakeholders’ awareness regarding the efforts made by local authorities towards a modernisation of the public sector.
The open innovation methodology focuses on the idea of gathering external and internal knowledge to accelerate the process of innovation.
The STORM CLOUDS approach
The open innovation methodology can be achieved through the following three dimensions:
A) A user-driven innovation approach
This approach implies that the source of the innovation relies on an intense understanding of the customer needs, which requires continuous interaction between the user and the developer of a new idea. It promotes the direct involvement of the end user in the innovation process, reducing, thus, the chance of failure. In the end, user-driven innovation translates customer knowledge into unique products and experiences.
In this sense, involving citizens in the definition of the public services that the city will provide is a wise decision which is providing excellent results. Citizens that are engaged in the process of technological advancements of their city, normally perceive that their city is interested in covering their needs in the best possible way. Also, there are additional benefits when they are aware of the cost and other implication that are involved with their demands.
To achieve a user-driven innovation approach, one has to identify ‘lead users’, defined as users ahead of the majority with respect to an important market trend or which are expected to benefit more from a solution. Lead users can be selected from different ‘user groups’ such as citizens, public servants, companies, etc.
B) The treatment of innovation as an open system, allowing external actors to become key players in all parts of the innovation process.
A key aspect of the open innovation approach is the activation of stakeholders and users and their continuous engagement throughout the cloudification process. The activation can take place in five different phases: i) development of a communication strategy, ii) information disclosure about the services to be deployed and their benefits, iii) consultation, monitoring the stakeholders’ response, iv) participation in the services’ deployment, improvement and exploitation, and v) negotiation and partnerships aiming at future improvements and the sustainability of the deployed services.
Potential stakeholders can be derived from citizens, public authorities, local enterprises and organisations. These should be contacted with the use of different communication channels such as newsletters, social networks, personal meetings and working groups. Given that the stakeholders’ engagement is difficult to maintain, appropriate communication actions should take place from the very beginning. For example, public servants must be informed on how technological change will benefit them in order to avoid change resistance. Also, citizens should be an active part of the technological evolution of their city. Citizens must be informed that their Municipality is involved in a technological evolution process that will produce benefits for the city in terms of quick availability of new services for citizens, cost reduction, improved flexibility and transparency in procurement processes. This information will elevate the sense of transparency and accountability.
C) The use of a series of iterative innovation cycles.
The idea for these cycles lies on the interactive nature of innovation. It starts with a preparation stage, where the innovation environment is established, describing the scenario and the interaction between the key actors, followed by iterative innovation cycles in which the services are being evaluated by users, leading to improved versions.
- H. Chesbrough, W. Vanhaverbeke, and J. West, Open innovation: Researching a new paradigm. OUP Oxford, 2006.