Gents bedrijf zet in op digitale producten: “Dure innovatietrajecten zijn verleden tijd. Snelheid is de toekomst van innovatie”

“Expensive innovation processes are a thing of the past. Speed ​​is the future of innovation”

Stef Nimmegeers, co-founder van Bothrs

Speed ​​is one of the most crucial factors in successful digital transformations. According to the Ghent digital studio, Bothrs, it is the only way for companies to deal with digital product innovation. But this will no longer be done in the traditional way in 2023, co-founder Stef Nimmegeers and growth lead Kevin Verborgh are sure of that. “You no longer get credits for working on a nice presentation for half a year. Companies want value for money and consumers want to see results. We continuously focus on speed in our innovation processes: by validating innovations week after week, we reduce the risks and speed up the process. The future belongs to fast and agile players.”

Stef Nimmegeers is convinced that companies will approach their innovation differently in the coming years and will shift their budgets. “In times of economic boom, companies call in large consultancy firms. They then make beautiful presentations that nine times out of ten end up in a drawer somewhere, never to get out again. They create expensive and long digital transformation processes, without many concrete results in return.”

Stef Nimmegeers, co-founder van Bothrs

“A large pharmaceutical company came knocking at our door because their innovation was completely blocked. They had hired such a big consultancy company to develop new digital products. In three years they had not brought a single innovation to the market. For three years they had pumped a lot of money into processes that were of no use to the patient. That’s the ultimate goal of a pharmaceutical company, isn’t it?”

Now that the economy is taking a hit, those companies don’t want to just turn on the tap. They don’t want a nice presentation or even a nice prototype anymore, they want results: new products, services and business models that they can immediately test against the market. They want value for money. So they are looking for smaller, but faster and more agile players in the market. Like Bothrs.”

Do you like to throw millions in the trash?

“We have a relentless focus on speed,” emphasizes Kevin Verborgh. “In every innovation process, we want to know as quickly as possible what works and what doesn’t work. We are obsessed with that. Digital innovation is always a risk, but you can reduce that risk. When it comes to innovation, we want to find out three things as quickly as possible. One: is the end user waiting for this? Two: will it support the business? Three: is it technically feasible?”

“The latter sounds obvious, but many digital product processes take it insufficiently into account. Now take a sofa. They operate in a highly regulated environment – ​​you can’t just integrate any application into their systems. You’d rather know that at the beginning than at the end of the ride. Unless you like to lose a lot of time and throw millions of euros in the trash.”

Kevin Verborgh, Growth lead at Bothrs

This way of working is also related to a new way of financing digital product processes, explains Verborgh. “With traditional funding, companies gave a big check, with the assignment to come and present something within six months. If the idea or prototype failed, the six-month work could go in the bin and that investment would be lost. Companies no longer want to sign checks for non-binding innovation projects. They want more control, both over the process and over the budget.”

“We use often metered funding. We cut the budget for an innovation process into several parts. Every time we reach a milestone, the next part of the budget is released and we move on to the next phase of the process. Such a milestone can, for example, be a user test, with which we prove with objective data that users need the innovation and are willing to actually use the new product.”

Metered funding

Validate every week

Bothrs’ no-nonsense approach is also catching on internationally. For example, the Ghent scale-up is working on a project for the American supermarket chain Walmart, one of the largest companies in the world. “They have their own incubator for start-ups, Store No. 8”, explains Stef Nimmegeers.

“They start a series of projects in parallel and the most promising ones are later scaled up by Walmart. It’s no news that the US is facing a real obesity epidemic. That is why we are working on a personalized meal planner. With our application we want to support the customers of the supermarket chain to eat better and healthier in a quick, easy way.”

Product launch

We have built a prototype that we validate and develop on a weekly basis. Those weekly sprints are not check-ins or presentation moments, they are decision moments every time. Decisions are made, decisions are made to move forward. And if we have to adjust or adjust our course, it is based on those validations and not based on a vague gut feeling. Thanks to this agile methodology, we keep the innovation process up to speed. We can lose at most a week before we are back on track, not months as in traditional innovation processes.”

If you want to keep the speed in your innovation, you also need short communication lines and short decision lines

“For Walmart, we will be ready to launch a completely new product in ten months. For such an immense corporate that is lightning fast. We can make headway because we work with a small team that is outside the corporate structure and is not bound by all kinds of corporate rules.. We can validate our application every week, without having to go through an entire executive committee every time.”

“We have already experienced it at companies that there are three steering committees needed to decide on the background color of an application. If you want to keep the speed in your innovation, you also need short communication lines and short decision lines. Speed ​​must go hand in hand with the scalability of innovation within an organization.”

Sweet spot

To be fast, you have to look at innovation pragmatically, says Stef Nimmegeers. “We can also make so much speed because we don’t want to reinvent hot water every time. We keep track of everything very closely. In recent years we have built up an enormous library of designs, code components, … Do we need to make a multilingual application? Then we just use that building block. Compare it with a Lego construction: you still have to build them, but we already have all the building blocks. (lacht) We steal with pride.”

We notice that the different teams not only inspire each other, they also challenge each other

In addition to the tools, according to Kevin Verborgh, the culture at Bothrs is also an indispensable engine for agile innovation processes. “You might think that it is faster and more efficient to put our teams at our customers for a few weeks or months at a time. But we consciously do not do that. We very consciously keep our teams together here in house. That is our sweet spot: we notice that the different teams not only inspire each other, they also challenge each other.”

Design sprint at Bothrs

“Our teams stay here with us in the mothership, but of course they work closely with our customers. We have learned that we have to properly frame new collaborations. Our speed sometimes creates some inconvenience at the companies we work for, but we can solve that with good onboarding. We have really developed rituals and workshops for that.”

“We also always encourage customers to invite a lot of people internally for demo moments, so we can increase support and get more people on board with our story. Change management is not part of Bothrs’ offer, but elements of our culture and way of working naturally seep through to customers. We notice that they are starting to appreciate speed more and try to adopt it in their own culture and their own processes.”

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