Based on the findings made so far on the Community Service Hub innovation project, SWITCH has decided to continue investing in the development of the new business division Digital Solutions and Consulting Services. Marco Dütsch has been in charge of the development work since 1 May this year. SWITCH caught up with him to talk about his plans.
Marco Dütsch: I’ve settled in very well, thanks – not least because everyone here at SWITCH has been very supportive and made me feel welcome. It has also been very interesting to learn about all the things that SWITCH is involved in, and to see just how much pooled expertise there is within the foundation.
Marco Dütsch: The Community Service Hub will be my main focus to begin with. SWITCH has been working on it for a while now and has successfully completed a proof of concept (PoC) phase. But before we can launch a working version on the market, there is still some work to be done internally. For instance, we need to analyse again the key learnings from the PoC and ask ourselves: What are the expectations of the different stakeholder groups? Have they been met, and where do we still need to take action?
We also need to set the project goals and iron out the specific details relating to governance and the business model, including the business case, milestones and go-to-market. Furthermore, we need to clarify which commercial providers we will involve, and which services SWITCH will make available to the academic service providers. Here, I’m thinking of services such as reporting, billing, on-boarding and marketing support.
"The Guidelines Board with community members was established for the PoC. The plan is to keep it in place for the operation of the service, although the exact composition is yet to be decided."
A Guidelines Board with community members was established for the PoC. The plan is to keep it in place for the operation of the service, although the exact composition is yet to be decided. True to form, SWITCH is involving the community very closely in the development of the services.
A decision regarding the platforms also needs to be made very quickly. The process is already underway and has been very revealing so far, showing how the different manufacturers position themselves and how they envisage the future. Technology accounts for only 20% of a project’s success, if that. For this evaluation, it is much more important that we have a clear idea of how the collaboration with the manufacturer will work and that we have a good feeling about it. This also suggests that the Community Service Hub is not merely a project with a start and an end point – rather, it represents a journey into a new business division.
Marco Dütsch: I’m under no illusions that creating a business case for such a new concept will be easy. However, I will make certain assumptions. I will attempt to work out some best-case and worst-case scenarios. In my opinion, formulating the go-to-market strategy will present the biggest challenge. The main question will be: How can we acquire enough end-users and a large number of service providers in a short space of time? As with any new exchange platform, there is a chicken-and-egg situation at first: the users want a lot of services, while the service providers want a lot of users.
So there is still some work to be done. But I am confident we will get there if we all pull together. My own personal goal is to have the Community Service Hub up and running on the market by the end of the year, so that we can start demonstrating the value of the platform.
Marco Dütsch: As the name suggests, the division consists of two focus areas. At the heart of Digital Solutions lies the Community Service Hub, of course. My vision here is very clear: in future, the Community Service Hub should be THE platform through which our university customers obtain most of their services.
In the area of consulting, we will offer our customers specific advisory services based on our expertise – such as help with tenders, legal advice for cloud services, purchasing advice and advice in the area of information management, in particular data security and archiving.
Marco Dütsch: I’m planning to launch the first pilot projects in the second half of the year.