At bpost, a large Belgian enterprise and our country's prime postal operator, we applied value creation thoughts and techniques to spark and ignite the creation of a digital platform to participate in the logistics sharing economy.
The idea of having persons handle parcels delivery outside the traditional hub-and-spoke (day +1) delivery was present within the enterprise and led to the development of the bringr service. With an official start of the project in January, it was delivered in an unprecedented elapsed time of 6 months in June 2016.
I would like to flash back to the start of this co-discover and co-deliver story and break it down in 6 key factors that helped make bringr a success:
1. The Hackathon
With the base idea of a peer-to-peer logistics platform, we dove into a 36-hour hackathon with a mixed 6-person team of business stakeholders, analysts and developers. At the end of this period, we had a demo version of the app, alongside a business presentation with sample personas, estimated business value, etc.
At this point already, it was obvious that with this basic idea, you could evolve into widely complex interactions and integrations with enterprise back office systems as well as partner systems and scale on multiple dimensions.
2. The Pitch
Thanks to the results of the hackathon, we had a series of opportunities to pitch the idea (and its first exploration) through the management chain within the enterprise. Having a tangible and presentable, pitchable result led to progress where most other ideas would have slowly dimmed to be forgotten.
3. The Project
With high-level stakeholder commitment, a project team was assembled that would deliver this digital platform, while being responsible for all aspects of it. This included business aspects like market analysis, business models, marketing, end-user policies, payment, support, etc. But also all technical aspects, like infrastructure, service architecture, integration with outside services, development & tooling, deployment & testing, etc.
We applied techniques like the Business Model Canvas, Lean canvas, Story Mapping, Personas, Customer journey mapping, UX Design, Agile development with SCRUM, etc.
4. The Platform
To establish this technical platform, given the timing and mode of collaboration, choices were made with an iterative Minimal Lovable Product in mind. This meant no expensive up-front investments in hardware or software nor tooling. Luckily, with the current state of technology we can identify several enabling factors:
- Cloud deployment: nowadays, a cloud subscription allows you to build and continuously deploy services without waiting time and capacity limits (other than your budget).
- SaaS: integrating with available Cloud Services allows you to focus on the core business, without having to reinvent the wheel. This includes your development and project management tools.
- Mobile technology with an API backend: to enable the business model, we adopted a mobile-first approach, so that we could focus on the capabilities offered by mobile operating systems needed for the core features of the platform. The backend is made available via modern granular API services.
5. The Launch
Pre-launch, the team scrambled to get things done, not in a chaotic way, but rather in a minimal yet focused way. Things like user experience design, brand name, logo, launch location/area, website, marketing campaign, … were all taken care of in matter of days, not months.
The technical team was prepared with their roll-out plan, having set up a continuous delivery-based setup, in true DevOps spirit. Cloud scalability allowed thousands of subscriptions within a few days, also thanks to national (traditional and social) media attention. This was the point where it all turned into a next iteration of discovery.
6. The Discovery
Shortly after launch, and at the time of writing, the first short cycles of exploration, value identification, service design and implementation have already passed. This has led to newly implemented features that in hindsight would never had been on the roadmap at the beginning of the project.
Things like scaling from city to province, a ‘Cash on Delivery’ payment flow and a member referral program are being implemented and allow new types of customer segments to be served and to broaden the user base of platform collaborators. A discovery that can lead to new supported business models and other customer journeys.
- Keep a laser-sharp focus: Throughout the journey, lots of stakeholders (yes, even C-level) spit out their wildest ideas, but are those the ones your market is waiting for? Build your Minimal Lovable Product and evolve from there.
At any time in the project, we were able to keep the right focus thanks to the Story Map we created to help define our MLP. We used the map as an instrument to have a clear view on what was needed to cover the end-to-end product and process with software functionality.
- Speed & Agility: In traditional thinking, this is a project with a start (when your team starts developing) and an end (when you launch your product). But we started co-discovering as soon as the idea was there. The hackathon helped us with the identification of value, as well as with the design and implementation of the services (co-deliver). Finally, the end-point is not reached on launch. This is the start of ‘measure and learn’, allowing the team to discover the next improvements, driven by your end-customers and partners.
- It’s a team effort: Build your team with the co-discover/co-deliver cycles in mind and let them interact on all levels, so you can fully benefit from the flow and interactions between the inside and outside influences on your product.
About the author: Frederik Priem established the technical architecture and cloud-native development track for the bringr project. If you have questions or ideas to start your own fast-paced innovation journey, feel free to contact us!
The bringr project won the Data News ‘ICT Project of the Year’ award 2016.