Open Innovation Team, Strategy Department, NTT Data Japan Corp.

NTT Data Team
For ten years, the Open Innovation Team at NTT Data has been promoting innovation activities that lead to collaborative businesses with their clients and startups with “From Toyosu Port”, NTT Data’s open innovation initiative. They would hold business contests, which created lots of opportunities for collaborative businesses with their clients, such as Catch & Go—cashierless store solutions.

While open innovation contests helped scout promising startups and technologies in areas like big data, AI, and 5G, the team faced challenges when developing new collaborative businesses with those discoveries. Since the contests occurred annually, they could scout favorable startups/technologies only once a year, making it challenging to commercialize collaborative business ideas at the right time.

To maximize successful incubations and to better understand specific customer needs, in 2021, the team started conducting in-depth interviews with business units within NTT Data. As a result, they could pinpoint more precise focus areas for open innovation and successfully assist some business units in launching new collaborative ventures.


The shift to understanding customers' latent needs and then proactively creating business opportunities based on their understanding was a strategic change; however, engaging with business units meant that team members needed greater specialized knowledge. For instance, when a Subject Matter Expert (SME) communicates and supports business units providing trusted IT services for clients in the financial industry—such as banking, credit, and insurance—(s)he needs to have a comprehensive understanding of the domain. More specifically, grasping emerging trends like BNPL, digital banking, wellness management, DeFi, and blockchain is very important in guiding business units to new business opportunities.

With just five people responsible for over 100 business departments, the team noticed that their research approach, gathering information from  both offline and desktop sources, was limited. They needed a new solution to rapidly get to know cross-industry trends and pinpoint growth opportunities within each domain.
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The Edge Solution

1. Industry trees

When it comes to mapping industry trends to focus areas more systematically, the Open Innovation Team turns to the "Edge industry tree". For example, when exploring new areas in Food & Life Science, the Edge industry tree immediately shows the relationships between the Food industry and the Healthcare industry, allowing them to quickly gain a better understanding of industry trends across sectors within their focus areas and ultimately narrow down potential business opportunities.

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2. Customized research

The team can access high-quality research speedily through customized research conducted by Edge analysts. These reports are very useful for discussions on niche business opportunities with clients and internal business units. For example, research on overseas embedded finance trends and use cases helped interest new clients.

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3. Weekly newsletters

The team receives weekly newsletters from Edge, ones that are aligned with their focus areas like 5G, telecom, and utilities, enabling each member to stay on top of the latest trends. Sometimes, the Edge newsletters are even shared internally to increase awareness of trends within their business units.

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By leveraging tools and insights from Edge, the Open Innovation Team could enhance its customer-centric business development process.

Using the Edge industry tree, customized research reports, and weekly newsletters has empowered the team to:

1. Gain a better understanding of customer needs and industry trends across a range of sectors, thanks to the quick & systematic mapping of relationships between industries.

2. Pinpoint promising new business opportunities by exploring potential areas and understanding use cases through on-demand research support.

3. Stay up-to-date on the latest developments that impact their focus areas through technology and industry trend reports and newsletters regularly curated by Edge.
The team members are now armed with timely, in-depth market intelligence to strategically develop new businesses and promptly communicate these insights to internal business units.

Future Outlook

NTT Data hopes to use Edge analysts’ insights in setting their themes for business development.

Since formulating hypotheses is most difficult during the VUCA era, they are looking to collaborate with Edge as hypothesis-discussion partners, and leverage the Edge analysts’ trend and business domain knowledge, to help select focus areas for business development. 

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“In a perfect world, SPEEDA Edge gets totally embedded into our tools and colleagues can get some standard reports at the click of a button or through API”

Sebastiaan Nobs
Head of Business Development and Sales Excellence, Swiss Re

Curious to know more about SPEEDA Edge?


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Izuru Watanabe

Izuru Watanabe joined NTT Data in 2004 where he engaged in developing new services utilizing cutting-edge technologies such as distributed computing, metadata content distribution, and robotics.

In 2017, he participated in NTT Data's open innovation initiative "From Toyosu Port," and has been leading activities aiming at creating win-win-win partnerships between NTT Data, their clients, and startups. His work focuses on developing new business opportunities through collaboration.

Since 2019, Izuru has expanded the scope of his efforts to digital strategy planning, human resource development, organizational development, and other initiatives to drive digital transformation. In addition to managing open innovation projects, he also focuses on familiarizing SME(subject matter experts) with agile development methods and advanced service design methodologies based on his past experience.

Ken Fujiwara
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Ken Fujiwara

Ken Fujiwara has been working with NTT Data for about 25 years. He started his career as an IT engineer in financial industry, and afterwards, he was seconded to a management consulting firm and a New York branch of Japanese Mega-bank. As a result of his career, he has a lot of skills and experience of IT, consulting and financial business. For about these 10 years, he has been responsible for driving forward open innovation between NTT Data and startups, and also been serving as a mentor for overseas startups. In his free time, Ken likes mountain stream fishing and giving guides in a traditional Japanese garden to overseas tourists.